Wondering What To Expect?
5:30 - 6:00
Arrive and check in with our flight host. Enjoy freshly baked pastries and hot drinks. Receive a boarding pass to your balloon.
Beginning around noon on the previous day of your flight, we continue to monitor the weather very carefully. We first check for regional frontal movement, then local wind and weather forecasts and finally, the morning of your flight, we launch our own small latex weather balloons to confirm that the wind direction and speed are safe for hot air balloon flight. We do not fly in convection (up and down drafts). These begin as early as around 9:00 AM. Convection causes the balloon to rise and descend uncontrollably, which is unsafe. This is the reason we restrict hot air balloon operations to a narrow window in the early morning from sunup to around 9:00AM. Thus, we have a flight window about 2 to 2 ½ hours. This, is the reason you must arrive on time because we simply cannot fly late due to safety concerns.
Our crew and pilots arrive 30 minutes before passengers. They start our generator, set up the snack tables and lay out freshly baked pastries, hot water for drinks, and ice chests full of cold drinks. Colorful flight certificates and restaurant vouchers have been pre-printed for each passenger the previous day. Each hot air balloon and chase vehicle has been checked the previous day. If it is going to be a cold morning the pilots add nitrogen gas to the propane that fuels the burner. This keeps the fuel pressure up which enables the burners to operate at full power on cold mornings. Without this procedure, propane fuel pressure would be low and burner output would be greatly reduced.
Before passengers have arrived in the morning the pilots continue to monitor the weather. They look for stable conditions and light winds. They attached a bright LED light to a small latex balloon, launch and track it. They do this so that they can determine the wind direction and speed at different altitudes and compare this information to the forecasted wind directions and speeds. After determining wind directions at various altitudes, they decide as to the balloon’s launch location. They try to launch upwind of where they want to land. The challenge is to find a piece of open public or friendly privately owned land that is large enough to inflate and launch our large size hot air balloons.
After determining the launch location, pilots and crew travel from our meeting place at the airport to the launch location. There, they begin unloading equipment and inflating the balloons. These procedures are unknown to the passengers as they occur before the passengers arrive. Because the pilots must examine weather data, send up a lighted test balloon, transport crew and equipment to the launch location, and inflate the balloon, it is generally not possible to be in the air while the sun appears over the horizon. To do that, pilots and crew would have to arrive hours earlier and set up in the dark and hope the wind patterns do not change by launch time. This is not a safe or prudent procedure. Therefore, please understand that your flight will occur a little after sunrise.
Back at the airport, our flight host is checking in passengers, weighing them, offering snacks, pastries and hot drinks, and handing out boarding passes. Weighing is necessary in order to verify a total passenger weight number for the pilot, as this is critical to safe operations. There is a maximum and minimum weight that can safely be flown in a certain sized balloon. We find that many passengers understate their weight so it is necessary to confirm everyone’s weight for the pilot.
6:00 - 6:30
Transport from Perris Airport to balloon launch location which varies with wind direction.
The passengers have now been checked in, weighed, offered snacks, given boarding passes, and a detailed flight briefing by the flight host. Passengers then board our vans for the short ride from the airport to the launch area. This usually takes less than ten minutes. Because we do not normally fly from the airport, late arriving passengers cannot always be accommodated because the balloons are not launching from the airport and must launch on time with the other passengers.
6:30 - 7:00
Balloons inflate, board passengers, launch, and fly.
By the time passengers arrive at the launch area, the balloons have been partially or fully inflated. If we are flying two hops, the van will return to the airport to pick up the second hop (group), while the first hop boards the balloon and launches into the wild blue yonder.
7:30 - 8:00
Balloons land, switch passengers for a second hop or deflate if finished. Passengers transport back to Perris Airport.
After an estimated flight time of 30 to 60 minutes, the balloon will land and switch passengers. The first group will return to the airport with the flight host to participate in the Champagne Ceremony followed by breakfast at the Perris Café, AKA, The Bombshelter. This is one of the few places you can say, “bomb” near an airport! After the balloon lands for the second time the process is repeated for the second group. The whole process takes an estimated 2 to 2 ½ hours.
7:45 - 8:15
New Aeronauts are awarded colorful Flight Certificates and breakfast vouchers for the on-field Perris Café (Bomb Shelter Restaurant). Other passengers who have chosen the wine tasting/tour/brunch option head to the winery after the ceremony is completed.
If there are two groups flying, each group will participate in individual Post Flight Toast Ceremonies. During the ceremony, newly commissioned Aeronauts drink a toast and celebrate their first successful lighter-than-air experience.
8:00 - 8:30
Aeronauts enjoy a full breakfast while watching skydivers land only 1000 yards from the large floor to ceiling windows of the restaurant. Videos from the on-field Vertical Wind Tunnel are shown on large videos screens during breakfast. The entertaining videos show both new non-skydivers and experienced skydivers floating on a column of 130 mph wind in the wind tunnel.
The Bombshelter Restaurant is on the opposite side of the airport from where we meet. It is a good idea to drive your car to the other side of the parking lot to reach the restaurant. Once in the restaurant, I recommend sitting in the table area, not in a booth, because there are large view windows in the table area from where you can see hundreds of skydivers landing in the drop zone directly across from the restaurant. It is interesting and entertaining to watch the 2-legged and 4- legged parachutes landing. If you are brave enough and have the desire to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, you can sign up with Skydive Perris for a skydiving course, or jump the same day with a tandem jump instructor.
For the not as brave, but still pretty brave Aeronauts, you can sign up to float in the vertical wind tunnel which is located next to our balloon meeting area. It is much more challenging than you think to stay centered in a 130-mph vertical column of air, without hitting the top, bottom, or sides of the wind tunnel. During breakfast, large video screens in the restaurant receive a video feed from the wind tunnel, so you can watch other brave souls skydiving inside of a building!
A personal note from the Chief Pilot regarding your flight
Please consider that balloons are not launch and landed from airports. For each flight day, we typically must hire approximately 6 to 8 people per balloon including pilots, crew, and office staff. If we are weathered out and cannot fly, we still must pay certain fixed and operating expenses. In other words, it costs us in the attempt to fly you, even if we are weathered out. For this reason, we cannot refund passengers who are weathered out. If we did, we would have the raise the cost of the flights significantly.
We have been flying passengers for over 43 years without a single accident or incident. We do our best to provide a new, exciting experience for the first-time passengers. We do have many small private charter balloons that hold from two to 12 people. Of course, these flights are more expensive than the ½ price flights.
Please be aware that flying a balloon is nothing like flying in an airliner, or any other aircraft for that matter. The balloon must be flown in a very fair weather and wind regime, is somewhat unpredictable as it follows along with the wind, and must land somewhere, …. and that somewhere can be anywhere. A large field, a small field, a cul-de-sac in a housing tract, or even the side of a gentle hill. Passengers must keep a positive attitude and be flexible enough to deal with the unknowns and balloon “hardships”. If you are inflexible, negative, like routine, and do not like to get up early, ballooning may not be the sport for you.
Recently, I have read a few reviews that were critical of our operations. There were words in the review that their mothers certainly did not teach them. I believe the problem was miscommunication of expectations as to how we operate. We have endured criticism for cancelling flights due to unsafe flying conditions. I wonder if the critics understand that we want to fly as much as possible, but we will not jeopardize safety. We are the only senior balloon company to have a 100% safety record in the industry. I would rather have them write bad reviews about our business, while they are enjoying health and vitality, rather than complaining from a hospital bed because we flew them in unsafe weather conditions.
Upon arrival, you may have to wait around for 20 to 30 minutes while we are doing our job of checking in passengers, correcting inaccurate weights, updating the flight manifest for the pilot, giving directions to lost passengers, serving snacks, sending up test weather balloons, and a host of other chores.
You may become chilled in the morning as the temperature has recently plummeted to the 30’s. You may have to walk in the dirt from the landing place to where a chase vehicle can pick you up.
We asked that you have patience and understand that these tasks are being performed for your comfort and safety. We have maintained a 95% or better approval rating from our former passengers. On Yelp we seem to have a few unhappy people who are extremely vociferous in their criticisms.
However, like most of our passengers, if you have had a great time as we intended, we would appreciate a good review to offset a few unhappy souls that have been prolific with their public criticisms on Yelp. I must admit, I have had to meditate for a few minutes after reading a few of the negative reviews. Well… maybe that is how celebrities feel…..
The overwhelming number of our passengers have a great time. After more than 6,000 flights in hot air balloons, I am still captivated by the magic of the huge colorful, majestic hot air balloon. It is thrilling to me to terrain fly along the ground following the contours of the land with great precision, or picking the leaves from the top of a tree as you slowly sail by in a slight breeze.
We hope to share with you, the magic and serenity of gentle flight in a hot air balloon.
Soft Landings,Jim B