Pack all equipment and have it ready the night before
a flight. Check to see that the balloon, fan, and vehicle
are fueled; vehicle tires are inflated; required
documentation is in the balloon; and all necessary
maps, radios, and other equipment are loaded in your
Most balloonists fly regularly from several known
launch sites. Unless you launch from a public airport
or public balloon area, renew permission to use the
site(s) on a regular basis. Do not assume because
another pilot uses a certain launch area that anyone
can automatically use it.
Purpose of Flight
Preflight planning may vary slightly according to the
flight’s purpose. If you are carrying passengers, you
need to tell them where and when to meet. If you are
flying in an organized event, you need to carry your
airworthiness and registration certificates with you
in case you are required to show them. Also, make
sure that your maintenance and insurance records
(documentation not normally carried in the balloon)
are available for inspection.
Most balloon flying is in relatively unhostile terrain
and in relatively clement weather. The special
circumstances described may be normal for a small
percentage of pilots.
You should plan for the possibility of not being met
by the chase crew at the landing site, since following
a balloon can be difficult in mountainous terrain.
Most pilots carry some additional equipment in the
balloon that they do not carry on flatland flights.
Suggested provisions and equipment are water, some
additional warm clothing or a sleeping bag, a strobe,
a radio, a compass, a lightweight shelter (a mylar
sheet can be made into a simple tent, for example),
and a good map or maps of the area. Pilot and crew
should agree on a lost balloon plan.
Cold weather flying
The two main considerations for cold weather flying
are keeping the pilot, crew, and passengers warm,
and maintaining adequate pressure in the balloon’s
Layered clothing that entraps warm air is standard
cold-weather gear. A hat is important, as significant
body heat escapes from the head. Warm gloves and
footwear are a must. Remember to have antifreeze
in the chase vehicle. Carry chains, a shovel, and a
windshield wiper/scraper if there is a possibility of
As propane gets colder, it has less pressure. To
ensure adequate pressure in cold weather, add
nitrogen (using manufacturer-approved kits), heat the
propane, or keep the propane warm. There are
several sources that offer tank covers and heating
coils. Inspect electrically heated tank covers often,
as normal wear and tear and tie-down straps can
cause an electrical short circuit, which could start a
serious fire during heating. Use tank heaters with
extra care. Never heat your tanks within 50 feet of
an open flame, or near an appliance with a pilot light,
or in a closed room without natural ventilation.
Flying in New Territory
Before making a flight in an area that is new to you,
make sure balloonists are welcome. Talk to local
balloonists. To locate local balloonists:
- Call the nearest Flight Standards District Office
(FSDO)—ask for the name of a balloon pilot
examiner or aviation safety counselor.
- Look in the yellow pages under balloons.
- Check for local balloon clubs in the area.
If there are no balloonists in the local area, talk to
other pilots or local law enforcement offices. Let
them know you are planning a flight and ask their