This chapter discusses tethering and emergency procedures that are not considered a part of normal flight operations.


Most balloons are designed to be flown free and not tied to the ground. However, in almost every balloonist's life comes an occasion or two when tethering is desired or required. Contrary to the belief of many people, it is much harder to tether a balloon than to fly free.


Some important factors to consider before tethering a balloon are the space available, adequate tie-downs, airspace, local ordinances, and crowd control. Also, make sure to check the balloon flight manual for the recommended tethering procedure.

Space Available

The minimum requirement for safely tethering a balloon is a space that contains an area clear of obstacles with a radius twice as wide as the balloon is tall, plus the intended maximum height. For example, if the balloon is 70-feet tall, and you intend to fly 50 feet above the ground, the radius of the area needs to be 190 feet. Then if the balloon was blown down by wind coming from any direction, the balloon would not hit an obstacle.


Tie the balloon from the top of the envelope, or use a manufacturer specified tethering harness. To provide stability, the recommended number of lines, from the

crown (or harness) and from near the burner frame or basket/envelope interface, should be tied to points on the ground. Some possible tie-downs are heavy vehicles (full-size pickups, vans, or utility vehicles).

The best tie-down material is nylon rope; nylon stretches and is strong. Use a minimum 5/8-inch nylon three-ply twist. Do not use polyester, braided rope or webbing because they do not stretch as much and are not as strong. [Figure 6-1]


If you are tethering within Class B, C, or D Airspace, coordinate operations with ATC. Usually a phone call will suffice. ATC may ask you to carry a VHF radio tuned to the tower. Most often a phone call to the controlling agency, and explaining the nature of your operation will be sufficient.

Local Ordinances

Sometimes, due to previous operations by inconsiderate pilots, there may be specific local laws governing balloon operations in a city or county. Make sure you are aware of and comply with such ordinances, or receive a waiver or permission to operate. Perform your legwork, do your homework, and do not be surprised by, or surprise, any authority.

Crowd Control

It is necessary to keep people away from the tether lines and from beneath the basket. It is preferable to keep spectators outside the area formed by the anchor points. Be sure to watch that no one interferes with the anchor points on the ground.

Plan ahead in case there is unexpected wind. Tie down correctly to strong anchors, use good ropes, ensure sufficient space, and have adequate crowd control. Tethering a balloon requires experience and should always be done with thought and care.

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