Hot Air Balloon Flights take place either shortly after sunrise, or a couple of hours before sunset, when conditions are generally at their calmest. Once we have met you at our meeting point, we will travel to the launch site, if it is not at the meeting point. Once we arrive at the launch site, we unload the balloon and carry out a safety briefing with all the passengers.
The balloon envelope (canopy) is connected up to the corners of the burner frame, once the basket has been tipped over onto its side. The passenger compartments can be clearly seen in the adjacent photograph. The fan is used to blow cold air into the balloon, which allows the balloon to take on its inflated form, laying on the ground, before turning on the burners to heat up the internal air.
Passengers are more than welcome to get involved and assist with the preparations.
Once the envelope has been connected up to the burner frame, the envelope is spread out on the ground to ease the cold inflation phase of the preparations.
Two cold-air fans are placed near the mouth (bottom) of the envelope and these direct cold air into the balloon prior to and during the hot inflation. This means that it is the internal air that is being heated up rather then the balloon fabric. The cold-air fans are turned off before the balloon stands up.
The burners of a hot air balloon are extremely powerful and quickly heat up the 315,000 cu ft of air in order to make the balloon 'lighter than air'.
The balloon burners are around 20 million BTUs each (and some of our balloons have 4) compared to a central heating boiler, which has around 80-100,000 BTU.
Once the balloon has been inflated, the passengers are invited to climb into the basket. The basket has two footholes in each compartment. Getting into the basket is a little like crossing a field gate!
It then takes around 10 minutes to heat the inside of the balloon up to the required 100 deg Centigrade to enable the balloon to lift off the ground.
When the balloon has positive lift, two safety lines are removed and the ground slowly sinks away. We are then on our way - destination unknown! Don't forget that balloons travel with the wind, so there is little opportunity to steer the balloons, other than by maybe finding a different wind direction at different altitudes.
Our retrieve crew follow the balloon, in radio contact, and aim to be at the landing field when the balloon lands, around an hour later. The crew will then contact the landowner to gain permission to recover the balloon from their land.
Once permission has been gained from the landowner, the balloon is packed away and loaded up onto the trailer. We then take the trip back to the meeting place, where we enjoy a glass or two of cool champagne - a fitting end to the adventure. We always carry soft drinks for children or non-drinkers.
We always aim to take photographs or video and put these onto our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IrishBalloonFlights. Come and visit the page to look at some examples.