Frequently Asked Questions
These Frequently Asked Questions are just that – some of the most common and initial first thoughts and questions most people have about hot air ballooning. These FAQs are not all-inclusive – we gladly encourage further Internet searching and visiting our nearby flying neighbors’ websites (listed below). Importantly, no FAQ page can beat our actual talking!
I look forward to your Contact!
Is hot air ballooning safe?
Yes! According to the Aviation Accident Database put out by the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA), hot air ballooning is the safest form of all air travel.
Are hot air balloons and pilots registered, licensed and insured?
Yes, yes and yes! Hot air balloons are federally (Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)) registered aircraft, pilots attain Private and Commercial Pilot Certificates (licenses), and all operations are fully insured.
Who can fly?
All passengers must be capable of fairly moderate physical activity, as climbing in/out of
the basket requires some dexterity, and, although we strive for the softest landings, some landings may be bumpy (or even hard). Passengers should be able to see over the edge of the basket in order to help make informed decisions; our baskets are 42 and 46 inches tall. Children under 10 not recommended, and you may not fly if you are or may be pregnant. All passengers must sign a Release of Liability, and those under 18 must be signed for by a Parent or Guardian. We can fly 2, 3 or 4 passengers, and, all passengers are required to reveal (to the Pilot) their true weight ;-)
Remember, please Contact me if you would like to discuss or have questions not covered here!
When do we fly?
Balloon flights can happen all year-‘round, but our season runs mainly from April
thru November. Flights occur at sunrise, or ~2 hrs before sunset, when winds are generally the calmest. Speaking of which – ALL FLIGHTS ARE WEATHER DEPENDENT. Balloon flights require calm winds, i.e. ground winds less than 8 mph through the flight window (we may fly faster aloft, but prefer to land, slower… :-). We study weather forecasts from numerous public and special aviation sources, and triangulate expectations between nearby airports, to include winds aloft. SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT. The Pilot has full authority, responsibility, and obligation to conduct or cancel any flight in the safest manner.
Where do we launch, fly, and land?
We have several popular launch locations, including smaller airports, local parks and even friends’ yards! We generally fly throughout Southwest Michigan, in and around the communities of Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Although we are legally allowed to fly near or around local airports, we generally steer clear so as not to impede other aircraft by our slower-moving un-steerables. We are constantly considering our landing options based on current wind speeds and directions, striving for any field, yard, parking lot or even roadway free of wires, posts/poles and other obstacles. Accessibility for the crew is important, too, as they strive to meet us at the landing!
We may consider alternate launch locations, e.g. passengers’ own yards or event locations, on a case-
by-case basis. Please contact me here for additional information.
How long are balloon flights?
Balloon flights average 45 minutes to 1 hour; note: we might not pass up on a good landing spot at the 44-minute mark. We must land prior to official Sunset, and may fly longer if mornings allow! Do plan 2-3 hours for the entire experience as we’ll arrive early and need to return (drive back) to our launch location for our post-flight celebration!
How high do we fly?
Balloon flights average 500 to 3,000 ft. We do have to follow FAA regulations regarding minimum safe altitudes, e.g. 1,000 ft over congested and 500 ft over non-congested areas. Over open water or sparsely populated areas, we may tickle tree tops or corn tassels, and even touch down in the water in a maneuver called a spash-n-dash!
What if I have a fear of heights?
Of my 25+ years and nearly 2,000 passengers, I’ve only had one person ever ask to, “put me down, put me down, put me down!” We say there’s a difference between a fear of heights and a fear of falling. I myself certainly do not want to stand precariously loose at the edge of a high cliff! The balloon, basket and fellow passengers provide a firm sense of security even in the wide-open expansiveness!
What to wear?
Casual and comfortable is the way to balloon! Temperatures in the basket, even aloft, are not much different than on the ground. Layers, and closed-toe shoes are highly recommended. Do feel free to bring along cameras and cell phones; backpacks and most purses will be left with the crew.
Are spectators allowed?
Yes! We welcome friends and family to witness your experience! Important they follow the instructions of the Pilot and Crew to promote their safety and not overwhelm or offend landowners or other private properties.
Our collaboration starts with you contacting me here, I look forward to coordinating a flight with you!
Speaking of friends and family, hot air balloons rarely fly alone! Especially in our Southwest Michigan area, you will often see two or three balloons flying together, advantaging those good weather days!
Gentle Journeys LLC offers rides directly and also offers capacity assistance to our nearby flying partners; we welcome your review of their websites, too!