“Weather” to Fly or Not?
 Weather Conditions
    Our balloons DO NOT fly under conditions that might present the slightest risk!  
    Winds must be light, under 8 miles per hour with no gusts, threat of rain, fog, or impending precipitation, or any other condition the Pilot determines to render the flight unsafe.  We hold strictly to these parameters; SAFETY will not be compromised.
    Since we are dealing with the weather, flights may be canceled when you call for your pre-flight Go/No Go decision or sometimes they even get canceled on the field.  We would rather cancel you 10 times than injure you the first time!  And besides we’d rather wait it out and give you a great flight.  Trust me, you may be discouraged and disappointed the flight was canceled, but Nobody wants to fly more than ME!  Call it my “Addiction to getting high!!!”
 3 Key Elements of Safety
    In each flight there are three (3) key elements of safety, which can be summarized as follows:
   1. Weather - Ballooning is strictly a fair weather sport.  Assuming reasonable good visibility, the key consideration is wind speed. Generally, a launch or a tether is not feasible when the winds exceed ten (10) knots or 11 mph.  Because the winds are lighter and more stable during the early morning hours and two hours before sunset, and although on rare occasions a tether can happen at 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon, we prefer to launch a few hours prior to sunset so that we can complete the tether with calmer winds. The balloon is then “glowing” in the dark, which can add a whole new ambiance to the tether.  High wind landings, while more exciting, can impose an added risk of injury.  A determination concerning the weather can usually be made before we leave home, but as pilot I reserve final judgment based upon the weather conditions observed at the launch site.  If weather conditions cause cancellation of our flight, we will be happy to reschedule your flight for a much better day.
   2. Equipment - The important considerations here are the structural integrity of the balloon and the generation of heat which gives the balloon its lift.  Heat is generated by a burner, which utilizes propane to create a rapid and intense flame.  The propane, a highly combustible fuel, is carried on-board in several tanks.  The burner, which is used to vaporize and ignite the liquid propane, is very powerful, and very hot.  It generates enough BTUs to heat over a hundred houses for several hours.  Please NO SMOKING in and/or around the equipment!!!  The balloon in which we will fly is maintained in accordance with requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  In addition, before every flight, we take all reasonable precautions to insure that the entire balloon system is functioning properly.
   3. Pilot Judgment and Control - Your pilot is fully certified by the FAA as a commercial pilot, qualified to carry passengers in balloons.  The pilot had to undergo specific training in the flying of balloons, and to demonstrate knowledge of weather conditions and local flying hazards.  Passenger conduct is crucial when given orders that may make or break a flight concerning safety.  The pilot has the right and authority to decline the boarding of any passenger that may pose a potential threat to safety of other passengers, crew members and equipment.
    If I hadn’t taken these pictures (1 top, 2 left) myself, I would have said they had been digitally enhanced.  I just happened to have my camera with me while out in the Pittsburgh, PA area.
    This was a summer evening.  It had been a hot day all day.  This appears to be a tremendous uplifting from a thermal.  It was just like a wall of cloud passing by.  There were about 8 more cumulonimbus clouds following a track right behind it.  I watch it for about 20 minutes.  Take note of the partially blue sky in the background.
    Mother Nature was showing off that day.
”I’d rather be on the ground wishing I was in-flight, 
rather than being in-flight wishing I was on the ground!”
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AE Balloon Flights, LLC

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photo by Joel Bergstrom

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