Frequently Asked Questions

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How long is the hot air balloon flight?

Flight time varies upon location, wind speed, and direction. However, we do aim to fly for about 60 minutes. The whole experience is around 2.5 hours from pick up to drop off at the Muckleshoot Casino

How do you steer a hot air balloon?

Navigating a balloon is unlike that of any other aircraft because it cannot be steered in the conventional sense. Hot air balloons use directional control by moving the balloon into different wind directions at different altitudes. The art of steering a hot air balloon to a specific location is the highest demonstration of ballooning skill. By FAA standards a hot air balloon is officially a non-steerable aircraft.  However, balloonists can steer a balloon, to a limited extent. Being knowledgeable of the wind at different altitudes, during launch, flight, and landing is the key factor for getting the balloon to a specific location. To steer the balloon, balloon pilots increase or decrease altitude. To increase altitude, the hot air balloon burners are used to warm the air inside the balloon. The pilot can also vent hot air out the top causing the balloon to descend more quickly. In the simplest form, Balloon pilots steer or control the balloon by using the wind patterns and adjust their altitude to move the balloon horizontally.

How big are hot air balloons?

Hot air balloons range in size. Small private hot air balloons carry 2-4 passengers. Commercial hot air balloons range in size from 150,000cf to 300,000cf, to accommodate larger baskets and additional guests. Balloons are over 65 feet wide and 10 stories tall, using close to 3000 sq. yards of nylon fabric, 9 miles of thread, a 3/4 mile of reinforced nylon webbing (load tapes). The size of the balloon depends upon how many passengers would like to fly at one time. We have multiple hot air balloons to handle any group size.  Our largest balloon can carry up to 10 passengers. The largest balloons in the world hold as many as 32 passengers.

How can I get involved in hot air ballooning?

You can get involved with a local pilot and our local balloon club The Cascade Balloon Club (On Facebook). Many enthusiasts get their start as a member of a chase crew. If you live in the Seattle area, e-mail us or call us to ask how you can become a member. You might earn free flight time and/or training as a crew member!

How can I learn to fly a hot air balloon?

Anyone with the desire and drive to learn can become a balloon pilot. Most folks learn about balloons while working on a crew and/or taking lessons from a commercial balloon pilot instructor. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) will issue a student license and a private pilot balloon license after you have gained the required experience. This includes passing a written test and flight test with a designated FAA flight examiner.

How do hot air balloons fly?

Hot Air Balloons operate using the basic principles of gravity and heat transfer. When the air inside the balloon is heated past the outside (ambient) temperature, it gains altitude. As the air inside the envelope is vented or cools, the balloon descends. Pilots use wind layers at different altitudes in order to steer the balloon in different directions.

How high do hot air balloons fly?

The highest hot air balloon flight on record went to an altitude over 30,000 ft. However, our typical hot air balloons fly from treetop level up to 5,000 feet, depending on the wind speed and direction. IN Seattle we are limited in altitude by the class B airspace of Seatac airport.

How much does a hot air balloon cost?

Like boats. and cars, new balloons vary in size and quality.  A new sport balloon typically costs around $45,000. These balloons typically carry the pilot and 2-3 passengers. Larger balloons that carry four to six persons in addition to the pilot will range in price between $80,000 and $100,000 (for the envelope, gondola, tanks, and instruments). Big commercial balloons (10 to 15 passengers) are quite costly. Used equipment is available. Private used hot air balloons can be purchased for 12-20k.

How much does a hot air balloon weigh?

Our average hot air balloon including the envelope, a basket, 60-80 gallons of fuel in 4 tanks weighs about 1100 pounds. Once the hot air balloon is inflated and in the air it will weigh about 3 tons!

How is a hot air balloon inflated?

After the balloon envelope is laid out and the lines are connected, two gas-powered 13HP fans force air through the mouth of the balloon.  The fans cold pack the fabric giving our pilots room to light the balloon’s burners. This process is called “cold inflation”. Once the balloon fabric is filled with cool air, the burners are ignited to heat up the air inside the balloon. After 20 seconds, the balloon will stand up and be directly over the basket. At that point, our pilots do a safety check of all equipment, and guests are invited to board.

What fuel do hot air balloons use?

At Seattle Ballooning, our hot air balloons carry 60 to 80 gallons of propane in stainless steel fuel tanks. Our average balloon ride uses roughly 35 gallons during the hour-long flight. When we fly in countries outside the US, propane may not be available. In that case, the fuel tanks can also be filled with butane.

How far does a hot air balloon travel?

The distance a balloon travels during a balloon flight is dependent on the wind speed. At Seattle Ballooning we fly in front of Mt. Rainier and typically travel 5-10 miles over rivers, lakes, and open farmland.

How long is an average Seattle balloon flight?

At Seattle Ballooning, our hot air balloon rides last about an hour and the whole experience is just under 3 hours. We typically fly in winds that range from 5-12 mph at different altitudes allowing our hot air balloons to cover 5-10 miles. Our ground crews follow the balloon via GPS and radio contact.  The balloon will land in an open area with the balloon ground crew there to help recover and breakdown the equipment. Once the balloon is packed up, passengers back to the launch site.

How many people fit in a balloon?

Some hot air balloons can hold up to 30 passengers. Here at Seattle Ballooning, we have multiple commercial balloons that carry 2-10 passengers. If you have a large group needing multiple balloons or would like a private group flight we can accommodate you as well. Hot air balloons are limited by weight and number of passengers. If you have a question about your party you can always get in touch with us.

What about bad weather?

At Seattle Ballooning we are committed to your safety and for that reason do not fly in poor weather conditions. We do not fly in the rain, thunderstorms, high wind, or low clouds.  Our pilots are weather experts and use multiple weather resources to make the decision fly. The wind, temperature, pressure, rain, and fog all play a role in our decisions. If a flight is canceled due to weather, we will reschedule the flight for another day or may offer a refund if another day is not available.

What should I wear on my hot air balloon flight?

We have a few suggestions about what to wear for your balloon ride. The fields we launch from can have dew in the mornings, so wearing closed-toed shoes, like boots or sneakers is a good idea. Sunrise balloon flights can be a little chilly on the ground, but it’s good to remember that in the balloon you’ll have a heater above you. That heater above you is also a good reason to wear a hat. In the summer on sunset flights, it will be hot.  You will not need to bring a coat.

What will I see on the hot air balloon ride?

You’ll get stunning views of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, along with spectacular views of the Puget Sound.  Depending on the balloon flight direction, you’ll get to fly over rivers and lakes.  Our favorite lake to fly over is Lake Tapps! In the morning hours, wildlife is very active, giving guests a chance to view herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. Our flying area is also filled with dairy farms, horse ranches, and even some buffalo reserves. Bring your cell phone or camera with plenty of space available for photos!

What area does the hot air balloon fly over?

We fly in the most beautiful area possible directly in front of Mount Rainier on the Enumclaw Plateau. It’s just 35 minutes from downtown Seattle

Why do balloons fly early in the morning and late in the evening?

Sunrise and sunset are the best times to fly! In the first few hours after sunrise and the last few hours before sunset, the winds are generally calm and favorable for ballooning. During the daytime hours, the sun heats up the ground unevenly causing fast and variable winds.

Why is there a maximum weight limit for passengers?

Balloons like all aircraft are subject to weight and balance. The total passenger weight is affected by the temperature around the balloon and its altitude. The average weight for your party should not be over 200lb per person. The maximum weight for any passenger is 235lb (if weight exceeds then two tickets need to be purchased). No passengers weighing over 270lb are permitted to fly.

How much time should I allow for the whole ballooning experience?

The whole experience is around 3 hours for your Seattle balloon tour. This includes driving to the launch site, the flight, the post-flight celebration, and driving back to the Muckleshoot Casino

What time does the hot air balloon take off?

Flight times vary throughout the year based upon sunrise and sunset times. For sunrise flights, we meet 45 minutes before sunrise. For afternoon/evening flights we meet 2.5 hours before sunset. You’ll want to show up 15 minutes prior to the time on your flight reservation as we can not wait for late parties. To see exact meeting times click the book now button at the top of the page to see the schedule

How early do I need to show up for my reservation?

You’ll want to show up 15 minutes prior to the time on your flight reservation as we can not wait for late parties

How do I get back to my car?

Our chase crew will follow the balloon during the duration of your flight. Once landed, the Seattle Ballooning flight team will drive you back to the Muckleshoot Casino (Where your car is parked).

Physical requirements to fly in a Seattle hot balloon?

At Seattle Ballooning, there are no age maximums, however, there are no seats in the basket. We have taken many guests in the 80’s and 90’s who are in good physical condition. Guests must be able to stand for the entire flight (about an hour) unassisted. There are bolsters for passengers to hold onto and lean against. We also suggest booking a sunrise flight for passengers over the age of 75 or parents that have kids under the age of 9. Children, kids, and infants aged 0-4 are not allowed to fly. Parents/guardians should be mindful of flight times with small children as well, as there are no restrooms on the flight and many can get bored and restless standing in the balloon for an hour. The maximum weight for any passenger is 235lb (if weight exceeds then two tickets need to be purchased). No passengers weighing over 270lb are permitted to fly. All guests are required to sign a declaration that he/she doesn’t have any serious medical problems such as – Heart problem – Knee & backbone Surgery in the previous 6 months. If you have recently had surgery, back problems, or are concerned about physical limitations, we always recommend checking with your doctor before booking your flight. How do you get in and out of the hot air balloon basket? The basket has footholds. You will put your foot into a slot in the side of the basket and swing your legs over the top, and into the basket. It’s kind of like getting on a horse, there is no graceful way to do it! Due to Covid, all passengers must be able to get in and out of the balloon without our crew’s assistance. For passengers who don’t want to climb in, we can pre-board while the basket is laid over.

Where does the hot air balloon take off and land?

Seattle Ballooning’s pilots meet passengers at the Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn, WA. We meet right outside the entrance to the main parking garage. From there, we will look at the wind conditions and select the launch location. We have over 15 balloon launch locations around Enumclaw and Auburn.

What is the flight like?

The balloon ascends very gradually, and most people barely notice that the basket has left the ground. The basket is completely still as it floats through the air and does not swing or rock. After the initial ascension, most passengers don’t hold on at all and start taking photos with their phones. Our pilots steer the balloon by moving it to different altitudes to get different wind patterns, so the height of the balloon will vary throughout the flight.

What is a chase crew?

The chase crew members are Seattle Ballooning employees responsible for safely launching the hot air balloon. Duties of the crew include putting together and setting up the balloon, following the hot air balloon in our chase vehicle, talking with landowners and getting permission to land the hot air balloon on their property, and making sure the property is left as it was originally found.

Will there be anything to eat or drink?

You are welcome to bring a water bottle on the flight, but alcoholic aren’t allowed while you are in the air. We do provide a post-flight celebratory toast with aged champagne and snacks. Feel free to bring your own as well.

Should we tip our balloon pilot and chase crew?

Like all service providers, a gratuity is always appreciated. A typical tip would be 10-20% of the total price. The pilot and crew split tips evenly. Feel free to bring cash, otherwise, we can always add a tip to the card you booked your reservation with.

Gift certificate information:

Ballooning gift certificates do not expire in the State of Washington. Your special person will have the flexibility to pick the best date and time for their Seattle hot air balloon adventure. You’ll receive an email with the gift certificate information to print out or forward to the recipient.  Seattle Ballooning’s core season is from May 1st – Oct 1st. We have both sunrise and sunset flights available each day.

Can you get vertigo flying in hot air balloon?

Nope! Passengers do not get vertigo or get dizzy. It’s because there is no physical link between the balloon and the ground. During the ride, the basket remains stable and motionless. You can leave your Dramamine, Bonine, meclizine, Reliefbands, or Transderm Scop patches at home. These items will not help and may even throw off your balance. Trust us, we wouldn’t want you to get sick on our balloons.

Who manufactures a hot air balloons?

There are 5 major hot air balloon manufacturers in the world. All of our hot air balloons are manufactured right here in the US. We use both Lindstand and Cameron commercial hot air balloons.

Do you need a license to pilot a hot air balloon?

Yes. All aircraft including hot-air balloons are regulated by the Federal Aviation Authority. Obtaining a private hot-air balloon pilot license includes practicing with an instructor, passing a theoretical exam on-air rules, meteorology, radio-communication, balloon equipment, and passing a medical exam. Our pilots are all commercially trained pilots with class 2 medicals

Does it get cold up there?

It’s not any colder in the air than it is on the ground. The temperature only decreases 2 degrees every 1000 feet of altitude. You should wear clothing that you are comfortable in.

Can we sit in the basket during the flight?

No. There are no seats. All passengers need to be able to stand for the hour-long flight and be able to bend their knees for the landing. There are bolsters to hold on to. We typically say that if you can jump off a kitchen chair without hurting yourself, you are fine to go ballooning.

Can my family and friends come to watch?

Of course!  We can send them the GPS coordinates to follow so they can take photos and be there when you land. Your family and friends can also just follow our crew as they are experts in following the balloon.

Why is champagne offered after a hot air balloon ride?

Champagne and ballooning have gone together like peanut butter and jelly since the 1780’s when hot air balloons first took flight. We only serve aged good champagne post flight

When was the first hot air balloon flight?

The first manned hot air balloon flight took place on November 21st, 1783 in Paris, France. It was built by the Montgolfier brothers and was flown by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes.

What days and times do hot air balloons fly?

At Seattle Ballooning we fly balloons 7 days a week from May through October. Morning and evening flights are available. Morning flights are at sunrise and evening flights are normally 2.5 hours before sunset.

Which is better a sunrise or sunset flight?

We always recommend sunrise flights. Surprisingly, sunrise flights are the best and slightly cheaper, typically by 10%. You get to see the sun peek over the cascade mountains while experiencing calm morning winds. We suggest booking a sunrise balloon flight for passengers who want to see vibrant colors from the sky. For passengers that don’t like waking up early, sunset flights are great as well. Hot air balloon flights in the evening launch an hour to an hour and a half before sunset and are often a little more adventurous due to increased winds.

Can you accommodate large groups?

Yes. Our largest balloon carries 10 passengers and we can take a total of 30 passengers between all our balloons for folks planning corporate retreats, conferences, and team-building exercises.  Feel free to call us (206-588-9788) and we can help you plan it.

What if I have a fear of heights?

Not to worry. All of our hot air balloon pilots at Seattle Ballooning are scared when being on the edge of rooftops and on glass floors too! We are all fine in the balloon because it is a totally different experience. A fear of edges is just that, being afraid of the “edge” of something. Like standing on a roof, near a cliff or drop-off, a bridge, or window of a building. A balloon basket doesn’t have an edge, it has walls that come up to most guests’ rib cages. Also, it’s not like you can “fall out”, you would literally have to climb your way out!

Do I need a jacket or coat?

I would bring a jacket for sunrise balloon flights, if the temp is over 70 degrees, you’ll be too hot with a jacket on. It is not any colder in the balloon than standing on the ground. Since we move with the breeze there is no wind chill.

How far in advance should I book or reserve my balloon flight?

Our flights are very popular due to the fact that Seattle Ballooning is the only company to fly right by Mount Rainier. We suggest visitors and locals book multiple weeks or months in advance, especially if you want a weekend or a particular date.If you are from out of town, we suggest booking your hot air balloon ride to take place toward the beginning of your trip. That way if the weather conditions aren’t perfect we can reschedule your group for another day. We also have a full refund up to 48 hours before your flight. So there is no risk if something changes.

Which hotel and places do we pick up from?

We don’t provide pick up from hotels.  We meet all passengers at the Muckleshoot Casino. We suggest ordering an uber. If you are looking for something fancy like a limo, we can help set that up with one of our partners.

Does the balloon land back where we launch from?

It’s rare that we land in the same place where we start. Typically we end up 5-10 miles from the starting location. However, there are a few times in summer where the Seattle winds allow us to fly back to where we started. It’s every balloon pilot’s dream!

When do you cancel a balloon flight?

Hot air ballooning is an activity that only operates in good weather. We don’t fly in rain, fog, snow, fast wind, or if there is a threat of thunderstorms in the area. Your flight will be rescheduled at no additional cost, and if you are leaving the area, we can provide a full refund.

Can I fly if I am Pregnant?

Our chief pilot’s wife is a midwife and suggests that if you are pregnant or think that you might be pregnant, you shouldn’t fly in a balloon due to possible bumpy landings. A few months after the kid is born is a great time to hand them off to the grandparents and go on a ballooning date.

Do you offer military discounts?

Yes. Discounts may not be combined. Military discount (15%) – Use the code Military at check out. We do require to see a Military ID. In Seattle, we are blessed to have a few military bases. Whether you are active or retired, thank you for your service. This discount is offered to military members plus one additional guest. For example, if you booked in 4 guests total, 2 guests would reflect a 15% discount, and the remaining two guests would be charged at the regular price.

Want a balloon tether?

Tethers are an operation where we tie the balloon down to 3 points with 75′ ropes and allow 100+ guests per hour to experience going up in a balloon. Great for giving rides to multiple people at events, parties, grand openings, etc… Tethers only take place within two hours of sunrise OR starting 1 and 1/2 hour before sunset. WE DO NOT AND CANNOT TETHER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY. Winds during the day are unpredictable and often accompany gusty and thermic conditions. The area for a tether needs to be at least 200′ x 200′ clear of ANY obstructions. This includes power lines, light poles, trees, and parked vehicles. Although we prefer to do tethers on grass, they can be performed on pavement if required. To perform a tether 3 vehicles will need to be driven onto the grass. To book a tether please talk to our chief pilot Eliav first, we can then email a contract

Are there seats on the balloon?

No. There is no place to sit. All guests will need to stand for the hour-long flight. Unfortunately, we cannot bring stools, chairs, or wheelchairs on the flight.  Guests additionally need to be in a physical condition that allows them to climb in and out of the basket.

Is there a minimum number of passengers required?

No. If you book a shared flight, you will be with other guests. We are very popular due to our operation and already slightly limit guests for Covid. It is rare that we are not fully booked.

Is it safe or is it scary?

Hot air ballooning is very safe and not scary. It is safer for you to fly in a hot air balloon than to drive to the grocery store. Some guests are worried about getting seasick or airsick. It doesn’t happen in balloons. Additionally, all of our pilots all have FAA commercial licenses, are accident-free and do not fly in marginal or bad weather. There is no turbulence, no stomach-dropping, no G-forces, or any roller coaster-type movements. Ballooning is surprisingly laid back.  Folks that are scared of heights surprisingly are totally fine.

How much are tickets for kids?

We have the same fares and pricing for children, kids, and adults.

Do I have to wear a mask?

Wearing a mask is mandatory at all times during the tour from pick-up, while on the balloon, and also while being dropped off.  Our balloons and vehicles are fully sanitized before and after every flight. Any passenger or member of staff showing any symptom of covid-19 will not be allowed to participate in any part of our tour. Please let us know as soon as possible before your flight if you have been exposed to Covid

Do you donate to non-profits and charities for auctions?

Yes, we offer a 25% discount. You can then sell the gift certificates at full or above full price in the auction.  We have over 100 non-profits use this option and in combination raised $74,000 in 2020. Rules: 1. You must use the email address associated with your non-profit. 2. YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO SHOW NON PROFIT STATUS or the certificates will be canceled. Please use the code nonprofit at checkout.

Can you take people who are handicapped or are in a wheelchair?

Unfortunately, our baskets are not handicap accessible. For handicapped folks, you can fly on a 2 seat hot air balloon in Sequim, WA. Check out http://www.dreamcatcherballoon.org/

Can I bring a camera?

Yes. Feel free to bring cameras, phones, and video cameras. You are about to get some great TikTok and Instagram photos!

Can I smoke weed on the balloon flight?

We don’t allow any type of smoking or vaping once you have been picked up for your balloon tour

Are you flying in the smoke?

If the smoke is causing issues with visibility or is going to be unhealthy for our pilots and guests to fly even while wearing covid masks… we will cancel. The good news is that the fires come every year and the smoke should be leaving with the next low-pressure system. You can always call us or text to check 206-588-9788

Do gift certificates expire?

Seattle Ballooning gift certificates never expire.

Do you have gluten-free food?

We do not provide specialty foods, however, you are welcome to bring your own for the post-flight celebration

Do you have non-alcoholic drinks?

If you don’t drink alcohol that’s fine. We provide bottled water to all guests post-flight.  You are always welcome to bring your own refreshments.

Can my dog, cat, animal, or pet come on the balloon?

We do not allow guests to bring any type of animal on the balloon flight. Unless you have a trained hawk. In that case, Let’s get some epic Instagram photos with a hawk landing on your arm while we fly in the hot air balloon.

What does the flight include?

Our hot air balloon flights include transportation to and from the initial meeting location at the Muckleshoot Casino, aged champagne, and delicious snacks.

Is there a weight limit?

Yes. The average weight per group needs to be under 200lb per person. The maximum weight for any passenger is 235lb (if weight exceeds then two tickets need to be purchased). No passengers weighing over 270lb are permitted to fly

Can I skydive from the balloon?

We don’t. Because of the airspace limits we do not allow sky diving from the balloon

Can I bungee jump from the balloon?

Sorry! We do not allow bungee jumping from our hot air balloons

How do I redeem my gift certificate?

You can redeem your gift certificate by putting your gift certificate code during the checkout process.

What is the cancellation policy?

If guests are canceled for weather we will do our best to reschedule you. If guests cancel at least 48 hours prior to your scheduled flight, there is no penalty and guests may reschedule. Unfortunately, no credit will be given for cancelling with less than the required notice or for no-shows.

How close do we get to Mount Rainier?

You will get to see Mt. Rainier and Saint Helens! We get as close as we can get to Mt. Rainier without into the national forest

Do you still fly if there are clouds?

Yes as long as they are not too low. Some of our best pictures are taken on partly cloudy days

Do you cancel if Mount Rainier is covered with clouds?

No. Either way the view will be amazing. Most days part or most of Mount Rainier is visible. We don’t guarantee the view as we can’t control the clouds.

When is the Seattle Ballooning flight season?

Our 2021 season is from May through October.We fly at sunrise and sunset daily

Do you perform hot air balloon weddings?

Yes.  We don’t perform them or sign off on paper work, but you are welcome to bring an officiant to marry you. If you are going to get married in a balloon, best is to book a private group balloon flight.

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