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Balloon FAQ

For additional questions, please contact us or view the Festival FAQ page.

How tall/old does a child have to be to ride in a balloon?

The child should be 42” tall to fly in a Hot Air Balloon. A parent/guardian must fly with them and sign waiver for them. Tethers have no restrictions on age, but same rules concerning the adult guardian and waiver apply.

How does a balloon work?

Hot air balloons fly because the air inside of the envelope is hotter than the outside air. By using propane-fueled burners, the air is heated, and the balloon ascends. To descend, the air inside the balloon must be cooled by either letting the envelope cool on its own or by opening the vent at the top of the envelope to let some of the hot air out. Throughout a flight, the pilot will use a combination of heating and cooling the balloon to ascend and descend. And when it is time to land, the top of the envelope is opened completely to let all of the air out and deflate the balloon.

When do balloons fly?

Since balloon flights require specific weather conditions, flights generally occur at sunrise or just before sunset when the winds are the lightest. If wind speed at the time of launch is more than 7 miles an hour, it is too dangerous to fly. Other weather conditions such as rain, fog, or thunderstorms within 100 miles, will keep the balloons on the ground for safety reasons.

How many people can ride in a balloon at once?

Balloons can carry as few as one person (just the pilot) or as many as 12 passengers! Balloon capacity depends on the size of the envelope and on weather conditions, specifically the outside air temperature. The balloons that typically participate in our festival can hold between 2 and 6 passengers, and most hold about 4.

How long is a balloon ride?

Balloon flights can range anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes depending on wind and weather conditions and direction of flight, and a few other variables. The whole ballooning experience, however, generally takes between 2 and 3 hours. This includes the set up, flight, pack up, and return trip to the festival.

How much do balloon rides cost?

Balloon rides at the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning vary in price. Please visit our Balloon Rides page for more information. Sorry, no children's discounts. Beware: taking a balloon ride may induce “love at first flight."

How high, how fast, and how far will we fly?

Hot air balloons usually cruise at an altitude of 500 - 1.000 feet above ground. Many balloon flights occur between 50 and 2,000 feet above the ground, but balloons can fly at treetop level or go much higher. Once the balloon reaches 12,500 feet, oxygen is required. (But rest assured, none of the balloons at the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning will fly anywhere near that high.)

Since balloons travel with the wind, the balloon will only go as fast as the wind is blowing, generally not much faster than 8 – 10 mph. The distance the balloon will travel also depends on the speed of the wind as well as the duration of the flight.

For example, an hour-long flight with winds averaging 5 mph will travel a distance of about 5 miles.

Where will I land?

Balloons travel with the wind and cannot be steered. Pilots may, however, change directions by ascending or descending to pick up varying wind directions at different altitudes. Therefore, you will land wherever the wind takes you! Balloons generally land in large open areas such as front and back yards, parking lots, fields, and parks.

How do I get back to the festival?

Each balloon has a ground crew that follows the path of the balloon on the ground in the chase vehicle and is in contact with the balloon via radio. The ground crew will meet the balloon at the landing spot and help to pack up the balloon. Once the balloon is all packed up, you will get a ride back to the festival grounds in the chase vehicle.

Can my child under the age of 18 ride in a hot air balloon without an adult?

A child under the age of 18 can ride in a balloon alone, under the discretion of the pilot and the parent. The parent must sign a waiver for the child at the launch site and the parent may be able to ride in the chase vehicle that follows the balloon on the ground.

Are there any passenger restrictions?

Almost anyone can take a balloon ride, however there are some restrictions for safety reasons.

Passengers should be tall enough to see over the edge of the basket (about 42 inches high), be able to stand for at least an hour, have no medical issues that may affect your ability to participate in light physical activity, and should not be too far along in pregnancy. All passengers should be sure to inform their pilot of any and all potential medical or physical problems prior to flight.

There are no weight restrictions per se. However, the pilot has final say over how much weight his balloon can safely fly with.

What should I wear?

You should dress as you would for any outdoor activity: loose comfortable clothing with sturdy footwear. Please no heeled shoes or sandals; sneakers are highly recommended. A light jacket or sweatshirt might be worth bringing for cooler mornings and evenings. The temperature up in the balloon will be about the same as it is on the ground. There is a slight, 3.5 °F drop in temperature per 1,000 feet above sea level, however since most flights take place at an average of 1,000 feet, the difference is barely noticeable.

What should I bring with me?

If you have purchased a balloon ride in advance, make sure to bring the boarding pass that was emailed to you, as well as a photo ID.

Other than that, the most important thing to bring with you is a camera! This is the best way to capture your flight experience and share it with friends and family. There is usually very little room aboard the balloon, so anything more than a camera or small purse should be left on the ground. If you have other personal items you can usually store them in the chase vehicle during your flight.

What time should I arrive for my flight?

Arrival times vary. Please view the Balloon Rides Information page for details. The check-in tent will be located adjacent to the balloon launch area. View the Festival map for details. Keep in mind there may be traffic leading up to the festival grounds, so plan ahead. Please note, checking-in later than the above times may result in loss of your ride so please be on time!

What happens if the flight is cancelled?

If the balloon ascension is cancelled due to weather you may either reschedule your ride for another ascension during the festival OR you can receive a full refund. The decision to cancel a flight is made within minutes of the flight so you will not be able to call ahead to find out if it is cancelled. Please note that you must check in at the ride tent at your scheduled time to reschedule your ride or get your refund. We will provide you with admission again if you are rescheduled for a different day. The last day to cancel a balloon ride is 7/1/2022.

What is a tethered balloon ride and how can I take one?

Tethered rides allow you to get a small taste of ballooning without leaving the festival grounds. These balloons are tied to vehicles with tether ropes about 50-75 feet in length. When you get into the basket, the balloon goes up until the ropes are fully extended and then returns to the ground. The ride lasts about 5 minutes and can take place any time during the day as long as the winds are calm. This is a great way to start your day at the festival as it allows you to see the whole thing at once! You can purchase tethered rides on-site only for $20 a person. The price is the same for both children and adults. Children can ride in the tethered balloon as long as a guardian signs a waiver.

Who can fly a balloon?

In order to fly a balloon, you must be an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) licensed hot air balloon pilot.

How do I become a pilot?

To get a hot air balloon pilot’s license you must first obtain a student pilot’s certificate. Once you have that, you must receive and log ground training, pass a written exam, log a specified number of hours of flight time with a certified instructor in a balloon, solo, and finally pass a flight test with a designated FAA examiner. In order to do get a student pilot license you must be at least 14 years old.

How much does it cost to buy a balloon?

A brand new regular shaped (sport) balloon system ranges anywhere from $20,000 and up. A special shaped balloon can cost upwards of $200,000! Used balloons usually go for less, depending on their age and the number of hours they have been flown.

What are the components of a hot air balloon?

The two main components of a balloon system are of the envelope, or brightly colored inflatable sphere, and the gondola, or basket.

The envelope is usually made of rip-stop nylon fabric (the same fabric as a parachute)and can range anywhere from 60 to 75 feet high (and even taller on some special shape balloons!). The gondola is made of wicker and is framed by aluminum or stainless steel. It carries the propane gas tanks, an instrument panel, as well as the pilot and passengers. The instrument panel contains an altimeter, which measures altitude; a pyrometer, which measures the heat at the top of the envelope; and a variometer, which measures rate of ascent and descent.