Passenger Management

Prior to landing, you should explain correct posture and procedure to the passengers. Many balloon landings are gentle, stand-up landings. However, always prepare your passengers for the possibility of a hard impact. Instruct passengers to do the following.

  • Stand in the appropriate area of the basket.
  • Face the direction of travel.
  • Place feet and knees together, with knees bent.
  • Hold on tight in two places.
  • Stay in the basket.

Stand in the appropriate area of the basket

Passengers and pilot should position themselves toward the rear of the basket. This accomplishes three things.

  • The leading edge of the basket is lifted as the floor tilts from the occupant weight shift, so the basket is less likely to dig into the ground and make a premature tip-over.
  • With the occupants in the rear of the basket and the floor tilted, the basket is more likely to slide along the ground and lose some speed before tipping.
  • The passengers are less likely to fall out of the front of the basket.

In a high-wind landing, passengers should stand in the front of the basket. The reason for this is so that, when the basket makes surface contact and tips over, passengers will fall a shorter distance and will not be pitched forward. They will be more likely to remain in the basket, minimizing the risk of injury.

Face the Direction of Travel

Feet, hips, and shoulders should be perpendicular to the direction of flight. Impact with the ground while facing to the side puts a sideways strain on the knees and hips, which do not naturally bend that way. Facing the opposite direction is more appropriate under certain conditions.

Place feet and knees together, with knees bent

To some people this may not seem to be a natural ready position; however, it is very appropriate to ballooning. The feet and knees together stance allows maximum flexibility. With the knees bent, one can use the legs as springs or shock absorbers in all four directions. With the feet apart, sideways flexibility is limited and knees do not like being bent to the side. With legs apart fore and aft, one foot in front of the other, there is the possibility of doing the splits and a likelihood of locking the front knee. Avoid using the word brace as in brace yourselves; it sounds as if knees should be locked or muscles tensed. Legs should be flexible and springy at landing impact.

Hold on tight in two places

This is probably the least followed of the landing instructions. Up to this point, the typical balloon flight has been relatively gentle and most passengers do not realize the shock that can occur when a 7,000- pound balloon contacts the ground. Urge your passengers to hold on tight. You should advise your passengers of correct places to hold on, whether they are factory-built passenger handles, or places in your basket you consider appropriate. The pilot must obey his or her own directions and also hold on firmly.

Stay in the basket

Some passengers, believing the flight is over as soon as the basket makes contact with the ground, will start to get out. Even a small amount of wind may cause the basket to bounce and slide after initial touchdown. If a 200-pound passenger decides to exit the basket at this point, the balloon will immediately begin to ascend. Everybody, including the pilot, should stay in the basket until it stops moving.

Monitoring of passengers is important because, after the balloon first touches down, passengers may forget everything they have been told. A typical response is for the passenger to place one foot in front of the other and lock the knee. This is a very bad position as the locked knee is unstable and subject to damage. Pilots should observe their passengers and order “feet together,” “front (back) of the basket,” “knees bent,” “hold on tight,” and “do not get out until I tell you!” The pilot should be a good example to passengers by assuming the correct landing position. Otherwise, passengers may think, “If the pilot does not do it, why should we.”

It is very important that the passenger briefing be given more than once. Some balloon ride companies send an agreement to their passengers in advance, which includes the landing instructions. Passengers are asked to sign a statement that they have reviewed, read, and understand the landing procedure. Many pilots give passengers a briefing and landing stance demonstration on the ground before the flight. This briefing should be given again as soon as the pilot has decided to land.

The pilot is very busy during the landing watching the passenger’s actions and reactions, closing fuel valves, draining fuel lines, cooling the burners, and deflating the envelope. The better the passengers understand the importance of the landing procedure, the better the pilot will perform these duties and make a safe landing.

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