About Us | Ballooning basics
The Basics of flying a hot air balloon
Pilots do not steer hot air balloons in the same way you would steer a plane or a car. Hot air balloons are actually 'lighter than air' aircraft which means that they move on the wind. Like a bubble of detergent, balloons are carried by the wind and their direction is determined by the direction of airflow.
Most people are unaware that wind direction varies at different heights. The direction of the wind on the surface will not necessarily be the same as it is at say 1000 metres. By flying at different altitudes, the pilots can use different wind speeds and directions to manoeuvre the balloon to where they desire, often with extreme accuracy.
Prior to a flight, pilots will release small helium balloons to allow them to observe the wind's direction and speed at different heights. This allows the pilots to determine the direction of flight and choose an appropriate upwind launch site based on where they would like to fly and land.
While in flight balloon pilots can control the altitude of the balloon very accurately with carefully timed blasts of the burners and, if experienced, can land within metres of their desired downwind target even if it is many kilometres away.