Frequently Asked Questions:
Why was the Colorado Balloon Classic originally created?
Originally created to occur along side the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Because of its success and tourism attraction, moved to downtown in Memorial Park for the Labor Day weekend at the request of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.
What kinds of events and activities are there during the Colorado Balloon Classic weekend?
Balloon rides, crewing on the balloons, Coloring Contest, Photo Contest, food, merchandise, children's play area, Official Souvenirs, "Balloon Mail" and a children's reading program.
What is the Balloon Glo©?
The hot air balloons are filled with air at nightfall but do not launch. They glow huge and beautiful against the evening sky.
Will the Colorado Balloon Classic always be free to the public?
Patsy Buchwald, President and CEO of the Colorado Balloon Classic, the Staff and Committee are committed to the event remaining a free community and family entertainment event.
What kinds of volunteer opportunities are available at the Colorado Balloon Classic?
Volunteers are needed and always welcomed in all aspects of the Colorado Balloon Classic: administrative, distributing posters prior to event, field set up and take down for the event, distributing photo contest photos at the event, crewing on the balloons. Call 719-471-4833 or visit the website at www.balloonclassic.com to sign up.
Why is the event by invitation only for balloonists?
The Colorado Balloon Classic wants to insure that balloonists are the best, safest and most fascinating in the world.
How can my non-profit organization get involved?
By contacting Patsy Buchwald at 719-471-4833. The Colorado Balloon Classic will work with your group in an attempt to design a fundraiser for your group.
What are balloons made of?
The envelope, the "balloon or colorful part", is made of reinforced heat resistant rip-stop nylon fabric. It is very lightweight yet very strong. The fabric is coated on the inside to help contain the heat. The fabric around the lower opening (called the mouth) of the balloon is usually made from a fire resistant material like Nomex, similar to the suits that firefighters wear. The basket (sometimes called the "gondola") is made from wicker rattan and each basket is coated inside and out with a finishing urethane and is individually woven by hand.
How big are hot air balloons?
Balloons come in many sizes and just about every shape you can imagine! The average balloon ranges in size from 65,000 to 105,000 cubic feet in volume and stands around 8-10 stories tall!
How do you steer a balloon and how fast does it go?
The balloon goes where the wind takes it. However, winds blow in different directions at different altitudes. The pilot will have the balloon ascend or descend to find a wind blowing in the direction he/she wants to go. Balloons go as fast, or as slow, as the wind.
How high do balloons fly?
Most balloon flights occur between 500 and 1,000 feet above the ground, but balloons can fly just above the ground or go much higher. The world record for altitude in a hot air balloon is 64,997 feet.
How do the balloons get back to where they launched?
All balloons require a "chase crew" to help inflate and, as they are appropriately called, "chase" the balloon in a recovery vehicle by following as closely as they can, the route of the balloon during flight. Once the balloon lands, the chase crew helps pack up the balloon.
Is a pilot's license required to fly a balloon?
Yes. There are three levels of balloon pilot ratings. The first is a Student Pilot. The second is a private pilot. The pilot must have at least 10 hours of flight time in a hot air balloon, which must include six flights under the supervision of an instructor. The private pilot must pass a written test, oral test and flight check prior to being issued a private pilot's license. The third rating is a commercial pilot. The commercial pilot must have at least 35 hours of flight time in hot air balloons. The commercial pilot must pass an additional written, oral and flight check prior to being issued a commercial pilot's license. The holder of a commercial pilot's license may operate a balloon for hire and may give flight instruction. (For additional requirements on both ratings, please consult FAA Regulation Part 61 for details.)
Do balloons fly at night?
Yes. FAA requires the balloon to be equipped with marker lights like airplanes. The biggest problem presented by night flying is not being able to see obstacles on the ground during the landing. Most pilots who fly at night will launch an hour or so prior to sunrise so they have the pre-dawn light to help in landing. As a precautionary measure, very powerful flood/spot lights are also used in case of a landing in the dark.
How many people can ride in a hot air balloon?
Most balloons will carry from 2 to 4 passengers, but there are large commercial passenger carrying balloons with the capacity to carry up to 30 passengers.
Do passengers ever get airsick?
No. There is no sensation of motion in a balloon.
What if I don't like heights?
There is none of the vertigo feeling because you are moving with the wind drift, there is no wind blowing. The basket does not rock or sway, so there's no fear of falling.
How can I be involved without buying a balloon or becoming a pilot?
Many people start in ballooning as a crew person. In most areas, you can join a local club. The local club is the Ballooning Society of Pikes Peak, www.bsopp.com. You can also check the local yellow pages for balloonists in your area and offer your services, or the next time you see a balloon flying in your area, follow it and offer to help when it lands.
Noted Dates in Ballooning:
- September 19, 1783 - A sheep, a duck, and a rooster become the first passengers in a hot air balloon launched by the Montgolfier brothers, Joseph and Ettienne.
- November 21,1783 - The first recorded manned flight in a hot air balloon took place in Paris. Built from paper and silk by the Montgolfier brothers, this balloon was piloted on a 22 minute flight by two noblemen from the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
- January 19, 1784 - In Lyon, France, the only recorded flight by Joseph Montgolfier was made in one of the largest balloons ever made.
- September 15, 1784 - An Italian, Vincenzo Lunardi, made the first balloon flight outside of France. The 500 cubic meter balloon flew from Moorfields in England and landed near Ware.
- November 30, 1784 - Launching their balloon from Rhedarium Garden, London, another Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, and an American, John Jeffries, make their first flight.
- January 7, 1785 - the same team of Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries became the first to fly across the English Channel.
- January 9, 1793 - the first flight of a balloon in North America occurred in Philadelphia and was piloted by Jean-Pierre Blanchard.
- October 10, 1960 - the official birth date of the modern hot-air balloon. The first man-carrying free flight took place at Bruning, Nebraska, in the Raven prototype 'modern' hot-air balloon. The 30,000 cu ft envelope was constructed of a polyurethane coated nylon and the burner was propane powered.
- By 1963, the growing sport was able to sustain the first U.S. national championship.
- The balloons used for passenger flights today were developed in the United States during the 1960s and have two main technological advances: using rip-stop nylon, a very safe and reliable material for the envelope and running a LPG gas burner to heat the air in the envelope. Ballooning began as a sport with a few enthusiasts in the USA and England and spread to Australia in the 1970s. Today there are over 5,000 balloon pilots in the U.S. alone.
Spectator Tips for the Colorado Balloon Classic
- Come out onto the launch field to see the balloons up close and meet the pilots and crews.
- Bring sunglasses and sunscreen
- Dress in layers as the days warm quickly
- Ask lots of questions – balloonist love to talk about their sports
- Avoid stepping on the balloon material and ropes – it could damage balloon
- Beware of vehicles moving around the field, especially emergency vehicles needing to get through the crowd.
- Do not bring your dogs or other pets to the Balloon Classic - city ordinance
- Do not leave your children unattended
- Do not smoke on the Launch Field – it is a safety issue due to the propane
- Do not step on or over any ropes attached to the balloons – again safety issue
- Do buy an Official Souvenir Program – shows Schedule of Event & more
- Do buy lots of Official Merchandise – fundraiser for a non-profit
- Do go visit other sites in the area between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. For evening events, bring a flashlight and a jacket
- Locate the Lost and Found Tent – near the Announcer’s Stage and let everyone know to meet there if you get separated. Make sure your children have some form of identification on them.
- Please do not touch any balloon equipment without asking the pilot or crew.
- Please follow the instructions of the “Parrothead” Launch Directors as the balloons lift off
- Stay away from and clear of operating inflator fans near the balloons
- Take lots of pictures and enter the Photo Contest – forms available at Information Table in front of Announcer’s Stage
- Take note of where you have parked your car. It's more difficult to find in the dark.
- Watch where you are walking for your safety and that of the balloons.
- Please pick up any debris, litter, etc. and dispose of in trash containers. Alcohol is illegal in all city parks. You're at a mile-high altitude, which could also increase alcohol's affect
Please enjoy the Colorado Balloon Classic – we love having you at the event
The winds have welcomed you with softness
The sun has held you in his warm hands
You have flown so high and so well
That God has joined you in your laughter
And set you gently back down
Into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
"The Balloon Crew's Prayer"
The winds have cursed us like a cyclone.
the sun has scorched and parched us.
We have chased our pilot through
Mother Earth's maze and
God has laughed at us
As we have climbed barbed wire
To retrieve our Captain
in a field of thistles and ditches.
We pray there is cold beer waiting.