It’s a normal aspiration for an individual looking for a hot air balloon flight to want to see from on high the place in which they live. But given that the wind direction can be any which way on the day it’s an unlikely dream.
To experience the joy of floating through the air on a hot air balloon ride and take in the sights, sounds and smell of the county in which you live you need to accept that this is what balloon rides operators offer. That is a unique adventure which is on many peoples “Bucket List” or younger peoples “list of inspirational life experiences”.
Unfortunately like most things worth having it is not easy. In England unlike Italy, Africa, Burma or Australia we don’t experience stable climatic conditions. Our weather systems arrive from the Atlantic with enough variation in type and ferocity to make “weather” a natural everyday subject of conversation.
Here on the East Hampshire, West Sussex border we at least avoid the brunt of the rain dumps experienced by Ireland and Wales. But even though our area has a reputation for less rainfall the unabated winds can still travel up the English Channel. Mix into the equation summer Sea Breezes and flying a hot air balloon in this area can be challenging.
Although it may not be immediately obvious hot air balloons go where the wind blows them. They can be steered by climbing and descending but only by tens of degrees. Here is not the place to discuss the Coriolis Effect (Earth’s rotation) and friction between land and air. Unlike yachts we cannot tack into the wind. Nor like powered aircraft return to our airfield. The solution to this dilemma is to choose a launch site based on the forecast from which the available winds will carry us into known safe landing areas.
In Hampshire we have Southampton and Farnborough airfields airspace to avoid. Landing sites are limited in the large towns Havant, Waterlooville, Portsmouth and Southampton. And hot air balloons don’t float so the English Channel is another barrier. Are you getting a feel for the challenge?
As hot air balloonists our solution is to have launch sites available to cover all eventualities. For evening balloon flights on the Hampshire, West Sussex border our hot air balloon launch sites are in Chichester, Petersfield, Fernhurst, West Meon and Farnham. Three of these are residential areas and have either am restrictions or bans set in place to avoid annoying the neighbours. So in the mornings we use our rural farm sites at West Meon or Farnham. On the day we choose the appropriate launch site based on the forecast wind direction. These forecasts are supplied by the Met Office specifically for the time and location of our launch and are far more accurate than the generally available reports.
On any given flyable morning or evening we can then take our customers on a hot air balloon ride over the South Downs National Park. But we only fly when the winds are gentle, there is no rain or more importantly storm activity and the clouds are not too low or visibility poor.
As stated earlier you may have to be patient and need to book your hot air balloon flight more than once. We are not offering a visit to a Country Estate or Manor House. A challenging walk up a mountain like Tryfan or Snowden although wearing country clothing is appropriate. It’s not like booking a Theatre ticket or flight to Europe. Neither are you partaking in a computer simulation.
Flying in a hot air balloon over the Hampshire, West Sussex portion of the South Downs National Park is a real life adventure which you will remember and talk about for years.