Sunny skies, fair breezes, warm temperatures…that’s all you need for hot air ballooning, right? You probably have a romantic notion of showing up on the day of your hot balloon ride Las Vegas, with not a cloud in the sky, gently floating on the breeze from liftoff to landing. And in part, you’re right – those conditions aren’t far from what hot air balloon pilots need to ensure a safe and successful trip. But there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes when pilots decide whether or not it’s safe for Vegas balloon rides.
Gone With The Wind?
As pilots will admit, they get as excited about Vegas balloon rides as the people they’re bringing onboard. But despite their enthusiasm to fly, balloon pilots must pay careful attention to the weather conditions to determine whether or not it’s safe to leave the ground. One factor that determines whether or not they fly is wind. Wind speed and direction are critical factors in determining how safe a ride will be. Typically, pilots don’t fly if the wind speed exceeds 8 MPH on the ground. Otherwise, they face a turbulent flight, losing control of the balloon in the air, and having an unpredictable landing.
Rain Or Shine
One of the most frustrating aspects of flying – for both pilots and passengers – is that a balloon ride may be canceled based on a forecast alone. As of 2018, pilots have to rely on forecasts that are no more current than 4 hours ahead. On top of that, they have to calculate factors that influence whether or not bad weather will actually happen, such as cloud cover, winds aloft, temperature, and humidity. Since balloons can’t fly in bad weather, calling a ride in or out based on predictions is the best pilots can do! For more information about how pilots make their decisions based on weather, check out this website: http://www.hotairballoonrides.com/habr-blog/the-best-worst-weather-for-hot-air-balloons.
It’s (Too) Hot Out There!
Along with wind and precipitation, pilots also have to consider air temperature when deciding whether or not to fly. Although it sounds simple, there’s quite a bit of physics that goes into keeping a balloon safely inflated. When the air in a balloon heats up, it becomes lighter than the surrounding air. This makes the balloon float upwards. If the temperature difference is too extreme, the pilot may have trouble controlling the balloon. Furthermore, a balloon can only fly when its internal temperature is 140ºF above the air temperature. If the external air temperature is too high, it will be nearly impossible for the balloon to fly.
As you can see, ballooning is a weather-dependent activity. Perhaps more than you initially realized! While you might be disappointed to learn that your upcoming Vegas balloon rides are canceled because of bad weather, rest assured that your pilot makes that decision with your safety in mind. Even if the ride is canceled, you can schedule a new date and check out some Vegas attractions in the meantime!