The best views of Victoria and Melbourne are from the skies, where you can take the slow, relaxed approach to soak up the landscapes from a hot air balloon.
For those who haven't had the chance to delve into this experience, there are often many questions about what should be expected. So to help you get familiar with all the bits and pieces involved, we’re answering your most common questions.
How should I dress for a hot air balloon ride?
There are no strict conditions or safety apparel requirements for a hot air balloon ride, so you can wear whatever you feel most comfortable in.
The temperature will be about the same as ground level, and the flame will provide some added warmth. If anything, you will be warmer in the air than on the ground.
To accommodate for all this, your best bet is often a good pair of slacks, jeans or track pants to keep your legs warm, while a t-shirt will also do the trick. If you’re one to get chilly quickly, opt for a long-sleeved tee for extra coverage. We may land in farmland or parks, so please wear comfortable walking shoes. Heels are not suitable. You may get involved in some of the setup and pack-up of the balloon (it’s fun!), so we recommend you wear clothes that can get a little dirty.
As a general rule of thumb, be guided by the weather on the ground level, and add a few extra layers just in case. The coldest part of the morning is when you wake up, so ensure you are comfortable when you leave your hotel/house. Remember, you can always shed layers if it gets a tad bit too warm. It’s better to overdress than under.
On top of this, a good quality hat and a pair of sunnies are advised to prevent sunburn and to give you the best viewing experience from ‘on top of the world’.
Are hot air balloons safe?
Yes. Our safety standards in Australia are the highest in the world. We are regulated by CASA, the same body that regulates our major airlines such as Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar. We employ a full time maintenance manager to ensure that our equipment is always at the highest standards.
Picture This Ballooning has maintained a flawless safety record since our inception in 1996; we maintain meticulous attention to detail and safety precautions, no matter the circumstances.
What is the best time of year to fly in a hot air balloon?
Summer is our peak period because of holidays and the warmer weather, however, we fly all year round and have some of our most amazing sunrises in winter. The start time is earlier in summer because sunrise is earlier.
As for time of day, hot air balloons fly in the early morning because that is when conditions are the most stable. Early morning typically provides the best chance for good weather – allowing for cool temperatures and the rise of the morning sun, making for a spectacular view.
When is it too hot to fly?
There are scenarios where it can be too warm for hot air balloons to take off. To enable flight, the air in the balloon needs to be significantly hotter than the air outside of the balloon. If the mercury is rising, that means more heat is required for the inside of the balloon. Above a certain outside temperature, it just isn’t possible to put enough heat into the balloon to lift it, without damaging the balloon.
At this point, the conditions would be sweltering in the basket and not at all comfortable, so it is unlikely a hot balloon would take off at all.
To avoid this situation, we are unable to fly when the morning temperature is high, and this is also why we fly in the mornings.
Is it cold in a hot air balloon?
Unless it is icy on the ground as well, the answer is no. On flights in the morning, the ground surface will actually be colder than the air at altitude. This is called temperature inversion and is one of the reasons why early mornings are the best time to fly in these nifty vehicles.
Can you fly in the rain?
Hot air balloons can fly in rain, but your experience would not be a good one. The shape of the balloon envelope means the rain will flow around the balloon and straight onto you in the basket - and you’ll get soaked. Not the kind of experience anyone wants when they go on a hot air balloon flight.
Rain will also make the balloon heavier, requiring even more heat to counteract. So, if there is rain on the horizon, it is a safe bet that we won’t take to the sky. Note that rain is only a concern if it will be falling during the time of the flight. Our pilots monitor this closely. Sometimes the general forecast might say morning rain, but if our pilots know that this rain won’t arrive until 9am, then we can have a beautiful flight from 7-8am.
Other conditions that Picture This Ballooning will consider before making the final decision to take off include:
● The speed and direction of the surface winds
● The speed and direction of the upper winds
● Temperatures on the ground and in the air
● The height of the cloud base and cover
● Topography and its effect on temperature
● The likelihood of fog and changes in conditions
● Regulations around airspace in the area
● Air Traffic Control clearance
● Weather and terrain conditions at potential landing sites.
Are there weight restrictions?
There are weight restrictions, merely because it is imperative for the pilot to have an exact calculation of the weight in the basket. Before each flight, the pilot does calculations based on the air temperature and conditions, to ensure that the passenger weights are within a suitable range.
This limit is dictated by the ambient temperature around the balloon and at what altitude it is flying. Additionally, the limit will dictate how many people can be in the basket, while there may be individual restrictions as well.
This varies between tour group companies, so always check ahead to find out what their specifications are.
When booking in large groups make sure you get the collective weight of the entire group before showing up on the day to ensure you meet the restrictions.
How long do rides last?
The length of the tour changes slightly every day and is dictated to by where we launch and land from. In terms of the balloon ride itself we try to fly to as close to an hour as possible.
From the meeting time it usually takes 4-4.5 hours to complete the tour. If you’ve got breakfast in your package you will be able to stay at the venue until around 10.30am - it’s a delicious unlimited buffet.
How much can a hot a balloon lift?
That depends entirely on the size of the balloon. There are small 65,000 cubic feet models that can only carry three people while there are also 350,000 cubic feet models and larger versions that are capable of lifting much more.
Picture This Ballooning has a range of different sized balloons to accommodate different group sizes, so check with us to discuss your group flying.
Do you get motion sickness on a hot air balloon?
If you can handle an everyday car ride to work, you will be fine on a hot air balloon; there is no swaying of the basket, turbulence or rocky conditions involved.
As the balloon travels with the wind, the experience is all smooth-sailing, so there is no need to worry about motion sickness either.
Vertigo can be an issue, though, so if that is a condition you suffer from, it might be best to consult your GP before booking a hot air balloon ride.
Can I fly in a hot air balloon if I am pregnant?
While all of Picture This Ballooning’s flights are smooth, sometimes landings can be a little bit bumpy. For this reason and due to CASA regulations, anybody who is pregnant will not be allowed to fly. If you have booked and you are pregnant, you can contact our office for an extension.
How old do children have to be?
CASA regulations mean that the minimum age for children to be able to fly in a hot balloon is six. This is specified on our Air Operators' Certificate and is non-negotiable.
For children above the age of six, though, we welcome them all on board.
What is the maximum height a hot air balloon can reach?
If you want to be exact, it is 68,986 feet or 21027 metres above sea level.
That is the height that Vijaypat Singhania reached in his world record flight back in 2005 from Mumbai, India to Panchale. The previous record was 19,811m (64,997 ft) and was set by Per Lindstrand on June 6, 1988, in Plano, Texas.
Those sorts of heights are only attempted by the best of the professionals, and recreational pilots won’t take passengers anywhere near that height. Most flights will remain between about 1000 and 3000 ft for optimum conditions and breathtaking views for the passengers in the basket.
What fuel do hot air balloons use?
Common Liquid propane gas (LPG) is used to heat hot air balloons. This is primarily because of its ability to generate a more powerful flame as well as efficient fuel consumption.
How do you learn to fly a hot air balloon?
There are two types of certification available: a commercial hot air balloon pilot and a recreational hot air balloon pilot.
A minimum of 16 flight hours is required for a recreational licence, while you must fly 75 hours as a pilot in command to earn a commercial permit.
All pilots must be licenced or certified by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to be able to fly.
The process of becoming a recreational pilot takes about two to three months, while it can take much longer to gain a commercial licence due to the number of hours you need to log on different sized balloons, while there are also graded assessments.
How do you steer a hot air balloon?
This is where you really appreciate the skill it takes for pilots to navigate the vehicle.
There are no rudders, wings, jets or any other devices to propel the balloon around – there is only the burners which gives you two options: up or down.
The pilot needs to be able to read wind conditions and use different wind directions at various altitudes, to steer the balloon effectively.
How much does a hot air balloon cost?
A new four-person sports balloon including all components costs about A$45,000, while the larger models are much more expensive.
You don’t have to spend that much, though, with affordable, casual tour options available through Picture This Ballooning in Melbourne.
Enjoy scenic flights over metropolitan Melbourne, picturesque Yarra Valley, Daylesford and Ballarat – all with our highly competitive rates.
Gift vouchers and corporate packages are also available, and for that special occasion, you can book a flight for two – if you’re up for a bit of romance in the sky.
For more information on our services and tours, get in touch with the Picture This team to find out more about the packages we have on offer.