Collected by
Jacqui Paul
Why do you fly a balloon ?

Wow! You fly a balloon? What's it feel like?
Many times, over all the years I've been a balloonist, I have been asked to describe a balloon ride to folks who have never had the experience. I, in turn, have asked many of our first timers to explain what it felt like to them.

I posed this question to the members of the balloon reflector that comes out of England and received a healthy amount of responses. Many thanks to all who did respond to my query. The collection of ideas, comments and feelings is wonderful! Below is the compilation of same. Some folks only signed with their e-mail address – so I was not able to add their names to give them proper credit. Where folks did not put their names, I left their e-mail address as their signature.

Eric Hodges Sometimes I have a bad week at work or something has me mad or I'm down and I need to just stop the planet and get off! Ballooning is my way to do that!

Karen Goodell When I'm asked what flying in a balloon feels like, I tell people what it feels like to me. I say: "It's like being a cloud. When you're in the balloon, you become part of the wind, so you feel no movement! It's like you're standing there, perfectly still, and someone is very slowly easing the earth away from you; gently turning it, so you can watch it go by."

Barry (Oxford, U.K.) I too, am given a huge buzz by watching the faces of the people I'm flying, or have just flown, as they struggle to find some words to express the awesome experience.
We have an expression that seems to fit the bill time and again: "That was just the dog's bollocks!"

Ben in Texas I tried and tried to keep it short, I can't say it in one short phrase. So, here is what I finally edited down. :-)

Beating the alarm clock up, and with your first cup of coffee, going outside in the crisp cool air to check the sky and the wind. Calling Flight Service, waking up the rest of the house. The feeling of the adrenaline begging to flow. The quiet ride to the field, trying to think of everything, and wondering what you forgot.
Greeting the Crew and Newbies, Hugs and smiles, laughs, and grumbles. There is always one who doesn't wake up soon enough. The sometimes over eager crew member who starts unloading before you are ready. The lay out of the forlorn looking bag that holds your sleeping Giant. The assembly of the Crew, the instructions, the pairing of the newbies. The elusive glove bag.
Lines connected, tested and tested again, and the First WHOOSH!!! of that test burn!! NOW you are awake! NOW the adrenal starts to flow!
The Fan on, the lines start to stretch and slowly the Sleeping Giant comes to life. Taking a newbie, you tour the envelope one more time, check the top, check the vents, check the surface, check, check, check. Answer the questions, and go to the back of the basket and stare into the mouth of the Giant.
Look and think, check, and check one more time. Give the final instructions to the crew, light the pilot, and offer that one final silent prayer. "Lord, Please Grant me a fair wind, A soft landing and a Good Safe Crew. Thank you."
Burn and inflate! Standup and try to spit! After over 100 inflates, I still can't spit afterwards! Weight on, and check and check and check.
Thank the Crew, Pick the rider, or let the Crew pick the lucky one. Test the top, set the top, and test it again. Check the sky, check the top, check, check, check.
Weight Off, and we slip slowly into Gods Country!
To Fly, perhaps to chase a bird you woke, to skim the Lake, to follow a Cloud. To leave the World and the Worries of everyday life behind. To float with silence all around. Finally in too short a time to find your Crew and give end to the best times in Life.
The Beautiful Giant slowly, reluctantly, gives up and collapses onto itself, as if to say: "I'm not tired. Why did we Quit so soon? "
The hugs, the smiles, the friends, old and new. The look back and the look forward to the next flight.
That is Ballooning to me.
Always be acutely aware of the fragility of the line separating life and death, love and hate.

Ken Foster Two remarks from passengers recently after rather nice flights Local Farmer and family: "That was an experience money cannot buy." Local Backwoodsman: "That was a memory no one can take away." One of my pleasures is after a passengers first flight l like to see that great big grin on their faces after landing that they can't get off.

MSallyJane I tell people it's like you have a napkin in your hand...and it doesn't go anywhere because you're moving WITH the resistance, no shaking or are ONE with the wind..

Mike Rose I've always described as standing on a solid platform and watching the world go by. Like standing on your deck watching the world float by.

RSLeonard It's tossing apples from the top of a tree to a homeowner and her children. It's bringing friends and strangers (how many sailors grab someone off the dock for a sail) to fly. It's launching last and seeing the bubbles float ahead of you. It's launching first and seeing the bubbles rise toward you. It's hearing the dogs bark and the children laughing as you fly over. It's the hiss and roar of the burner. It's the landing on that special place. It's the finding the road or tendril of wind that takes you along your special flight path. It's the crew. It's the people and the sky.

Sue Blum The illustration I give is it's like God (or some other being you implicitly trust) picking you up in the palm of their hand to show you the world around you.

Jean Edwards When looking down from a balloon, I realize the importance of weeds in the flowerbed and dust on the mantle.

TINA REEVES When I fly in a balloon it is like I'm in another world. I forget all about the stress and hectic pace of running a law office. It's very exciting because, when I'm in a balloon, I get to see the world from a different perspective. I get to see the beauty of a sunrise on a morning flight, the clearness of the water on the lake, the vastness of the desert, the ruggedness of the mountains, the magic in someone's eyes as a colorful, beautiful turquoise, pink and black balloon floats by...
Some of the excitement I feel comes from doing something adventurous, something that not everyone gets the chance to experience. (My mom thinks I'm crazy.)
The experience of flying in a balloon is totally awesome and the people I get to meet and become friends with along the way make it extra special!
Thanks for asking this question, Jacqui, it made me realize how lucky I am to have ballooning as a part of my life.


TOM RATHKE To me, and I'm not trying to sound mushy, it is a spiritual experience. A time when I get out of myself, use all of my senses and become one with the earth. The Great Spirit guides my balloon and all I need to do is follow the cues given me as to where my path (flight path in this case) should be. I have time to think, all my troubles go away, and sometimes answers to other things come to me in flight. It's like meditating at 2000' above the ground! (Please note that I am not that spiritual that I can levitate on my own, I need the help of a balloon :-)) This experience is unattainable to me in any other type of aircraft.

Don Piccard Connie Wolf said it remarkably well in one word: DETACHED

Ranger Rick, Houston, Texas It's like walking on air. Now I know what it's like to be a cloud.
The road less traveled is usually less traveled for a reason.

Ted Wirch When some asks me about the ride in a balloon, I always relate this ditty:
You see, we climb into a picnic basket, attached to some nylon straps that are sewed to some nylon fabric that is supposed to hold some air, though there are might big holes in the bottom and some little ones on the top.
We don't have a rudder nor a steering wheel, though we are surrounded by 40 gal. of propane with an open flame nearby, and we don't have brakes, and we always land downwind.....HMMMM Tell me again why we do this?

Carson & Martha in South Louisiana. Good question, but one that has to do with feelings, and as you already know, everyone feels differently about a balloon flight.
To me, it's the ultimate freedom, physical and psychological, with the exception or a small tug (gravity) from earth and that unexpected gust of wind.
Our passengers have all had different feelings, and some times it adds to the post flight celebration to have them tell about it. Carson Here's LOOK'n UP...

Remarks told to Jacquelyn most recently. It's like I am suspended above the earth, standing still, and the world is moving beneath me.
Now I know how it feels to be a Christmas Ornament.
It's kinda like sailing a boat except you're slicing through the air just like you slice through the water. It's so peaceful, when there is no noise, that you can hear yourself think. When you are up high and the pilot doesn't have to burn for a while -- the silence is deafening.
And not related to the actual ride, but to the observance of many balloons in the sky: It was like watching colorful champagne bubbles rise in a fine crystal glass.

Kim Vesely You pose a tough question, not least because it's not the same feeling every time you fly which is some of the beauty of it. My first ride was more than 20 years ago, so it's even harder to remember that first sensation. I wrote of it, "There's a certain apprehension -- a little queasiness, when the balloon leaves the ground . . ." Unfortunately, I can't find the tape, but the piece (from the closing day of the 1975 Worlds/AIBF) was set to the music of Debussy's "Nuages" from Nocturnes, and the words, "you are free, and you are the sky's."

In trying to wax poetic for TV, I probably didn't record my real feelings completely. I was nervous as hell -- hence the first line -- but that went away quickly. Left behind was a feeling of calm exhilaration -- I know it sounds like a contradiction in terms but in a balloon is the only place I've found where I'm completely at peace with myself and yet buzzed physically and mentally. The wag who dubbed it the "second greatest sensation" had it about right.
This is a bit of a complex answer for neophytes and is probably understandable mostly to balloonists. What do I tell "virgins?" Usually simply that it's totally different from what they'd probably expect. There's usually no sensation of motion, no feeling of wind -- it's like being suspended on a platform in space, looking at the world go by.

The other sensation is the quiet, and being able to hear sounds on the ground even to the point of being able to carry on conversations with people below. I realized how quiet it really is in listening to a piece of tape KOB shot in 1977. The first section was shot on the Fiesta field, with vehicle noise, generators, voices, lots of balloon burners. Then, abruptly, it switches to a shot from in the balloon, and it's totally quiet. The only sound is the burner when it goes on and the voices of the pilot (John Davis) and the cameraman. In this particular balloon (Raggedy Ann) there wasn't even any pilot light noise.
Some flights have unusual sensations all their own. On three occasions -- once in Belen, once in Angel Fire, and once on the West Mesa -- I flew along fog banks. Even if the wind is slightly into the fog the balloon will tend to "bounce off" because of the temperature differential, so you fly parallel to the cloud bank. It's like flying along a wall. If the sun is just right you can see the shadow of the balloon on the cloud with its own little rainbow halo around it. Somehow, in that proximity to clouds, it feels like you could almost reach out and touch heaven.
One other line is worth quoting. I was flying with Florida pilot Colvin Rouse over Sandia Crest in 1977 -- the first and still one of the very few times the flight has ever been filmed. I asked him why he flew balloons. He answered simply, "You feel so close to God up here."
I can't beat that.

Sharing the dream . . . . We make that difference in our own lives, in the lives of our families, in the lives of our crews, and in the lives of the people around the world who look up, see our balloons floating majestically across the sky, who pause for a moment and softly scream . . . WOW!


Jeanne & Tom Isn't flying a balloon sorta like asking for a ride with an angel and getting your own colorful cloud to ride upon? After all it is heavenly!!!

Ben in Texas Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return. - Leonardo da Vinci

Wm. G. (Bill) Scarberry, Jr
My first flight was enough to get me interested. My second flight changed my life. Both were with IV Cunningham in Milton, West Virginia. I was going through a really bad time in my life with a lot of stress. For my second flight I requested he take me at least a mile high. Looking down I wished I never had to come down. It just seemed to come to me. It's the "Great Escape". It was then he asked me if I'd like to get my student ticket and learn to fly. I did several months later. Every time I fly I get such a rush out of it. I get addicted to this rush and have to have it. Is there a better drug to be addicted to than adrenaline? The vistas are truly spiritual and the people I meet doing what I do are truly the nicest in the world. Why not? Did you ever see anything put smiles on so many faces as a hot air balloon? People can't be in a foul mood around a graceful pretty balloon. It's always such a joyful occasion.

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