"It was love at first flight!"
"I still haven't come down!"
These are typical reactions first-time balloonists have after floating on air.
Ballooning is unlike anything else you've ever done. You'll have a 360-degree panoramic view of the countryside from your stable perch. Because you are moving with the wind, you won't feel it - regardless of how strong it may be. If you were to close your eyes, you'd think you were in your kitchen.
But keep your eyes wide open! And perhaps you'll see deer or other animals scurrying in the woods.
Or awed spectators gazing up while waving a friendly hello.
Or you'll pick a leaf or pine cone from the top of a tree.
Or all of those experiences - and many more!
Most hot-air balloon flights are about an hour in duration. Our fuel will last considerably longer, but we don't want to land on fumes! Flights will terminate sooner if weather conditions deteriorate, if landing sites become scarce or if other safety factors are involved. We typically fly high enough to get a look at the scenery, but we won't be climbing through clouds or breaking any altitude records. Over an open field, we may skim low enough to brush the tassels of corn or wheat without damaging the farmer's crop.
Balloons must avoid the Rochester Airport, Lake Ontario and the City of Rochester, so most flights are in the country. We often fly from the northern tip of Conesus Lake (a half-hour drive from Marketplace Mall in Henrietta), Mercy Flight Central on Brickhouse Road in Canandaigua or at the Amazing Maize Maze in Ganada. If you have at least two passengers, we may come to your location, as long as it is not near the Rochester airport. If it is large enough and clear of trees and power lines, we can inflate the balloon right from your yard! You'll really impress the neighbors! A grassy area is preferred, as opposed to gravel, dirt or concrete. Permission should be obtained in advance if a park or school field is to be used.
Because we are at the mercy of the wind, a balloon cannot go right or left unless a wind is blowing that way. While we have a general idea which direction we will fly, we never know exactly where - or even what town - we will be landing in. When choosing a landing spot, the pilot looks for a place that is safe, won't damage the landing area or balloon and will be accessible for packing up. A school field, large yard or a cut hay field is preferred. Our chase vehicle will (hopefully!) be following the balloon on the ground and meet us when we land. They will attempt to find the landowner. Because balloons attract a lot of attention, it is important not to drive on private property unless permission is obtained. You can understand how a farmer would feel if well-meaning people tried to get a closer look at the balloon while trampling his livelihood. After the balloon is packed up, you will be driven back to the launch site unless you have people who have also followed in a separate vehicle.
Dress comfortably, in casual clothes in case they get dirty. Jeans and sneakers are good, although field may be wet with dew in the mornings. It's not much cooler in the balloon - in fact, without the wind chill, plus the flame above you, it may be warmer. A light jacket or sweater may be carried on board. If you are taking an evening flight, it will get colder as the sun sets. Photographic equipment, including still and video cameras, may be brought on board at your own risk. Cell phones can also be brought aloft but cell calls not allowed once off the ground per FCC regulations. We are not responsible for items, including jewelry, dropped overboard or damaged during the flight or landing.
Anyone who is in good health may fly. However, children under the age of 10 may be scared of the flame above them and may not be able to see over the sides of the basket. While most balloon landings are gentle, the possibility always exists that a windy landing may occur. It this happens, the basket will tip on its side and the passengers will end up in a horizontal position until they slide to a stop - it's actually quite fun if you're prepared! The flight is not recommended for persons in frail health, or persons who have had recent knee, back or heart surgery. If your health is in question, consult you doctor before scheduling your ride. We reserve the right to decline to accept any passenger whose health or physical infirmity is in question. Persons who appear intoxicated as well as pregnant women will not be allowed aloft.
In order to carry passengers for hire, balloonists must have a commercial balloon pilot’s license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Ground school, a written test, a flight test and an oral test must all be successfully completed, along with dozens of hours of training, solo flights and a flight to at least 3,000 feet.
Greg Livadas, chief pilot for High Hopes Balloon Co., began his balloon training in 1978 and earned his balloon pilot’s license before his driver’s license. He earned his commercial license in 1982 and has flown thousands of passengers in hundreds of flights. He has flown in numerous states and balloon festivals, including the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico.
A balloon is a federally registered aircraft. Just like an airplane, blimp or helicopter, they must be inspected every year or 100 flight hours.
The fabric alone weighs about 200 pounds and is made of colorful rip-stop nylon, containing miles of thread. Our baskets are wicker, which are lightweight, traditional and act as a shock absorber when we land.
There have been four balloons in the High Hopes fleet over the years, and all have been black and rainbow. Our most recent balloon is called “Yeowza.” It holds 90,000 cubic feet of air and is about eight stories tall.
Prices are $250 per passenger. Individuals may be paired with others on board. We may have other balloons join us if your group is four or more.
New: Private Charter Flights for two available for $595. It your ride is to commemorate a special event, you may want a more traditional balloon flight. For our private charters, you will have the entire basket to yourself (and the pilot of course) for a more memorable experience. Perfect for engagements, birthdays and anniversaries.
Prices for tethering at private parties, grand openings or other promotions are available by quote.
Tipping: While not required, some passengers have wanted to thank us with a gratuity. If you feel the urge to do so, all tips are shared among our volunteer crew members who help us get off the ground, land and get us back to where we took off.
Ballooning is a fair-weather sport. Our flights will be canceled if it is raining, if thunderstorms are near or if surface winds are greater than 8 mph.
The best time to fly is when the air is calm and stable. Typically, that's either at dawn, or a couple hours before sunset, when the sun is low on the horizon.
After deciding whether you'd like a morning or afternoon flight, call to schedule the time you'd like to try to fly, and we'll select a date and location.
Most of our flights are on the weekend. While it is possible to fly year-round, the ballooning season in Western New York is about mid-May through mid-October.
After deciding whether you'd like a morning or afternoon flight, call or email us and we'll select a mutually-agreeable date and location. Sometimes we have openings for the upcoming weekend, so you can always call to see if we can accommodate you sooner.
GIFT CERTIFICATES are available for any occasion and are valid for one year. If after one year the ride has not been taken because of inclement weather and/or scheduling conflicts, the certificate may be extended at our discretion. All gift certificates must be purchased in advance, and may be transferred to someone else. To purchase one, send the name of the recipient, who the gift is from and the significant date along with a check (sorry, we don't accept credit cards, but payment can be made via Paypal.) We will send the certificate right out. If you would prefer it sent in a plain unmarked envelope, please state that.
Visit this website for important information about so-called "National" Balloon Ride operations.
A new event for us, although it has been popular with balloonists and spectators for years. Located near Youngstown, Ohio, this fun event features a balloon glow Thursday night and raises funds for the Union Township Volunteer Fire Department. www.wpaballoonquest.webs.com
Another new event for us this year, but we'll be flying with 15 friends east of the Chesapeake Bay. I'd better get a crab cake this year! www.greatchesapeakeballoonfestival.com
This will be the 35th year balloons have flown in Dansville for Labor Day weekend, and I'm proud to say I've flown in each festival! Dozens of balloons decorate the scenic Genesee River Valley during six scheduled flights. Also a large array of arts and crafts, so get there early in the afternoons. www.NYSFOB.com
The largest event we fly in with around 100 balloons, this year marks 44 years balloons have flown in this scenic setting at the Warren County Airport. And there's never an admission charge to the public! This is also an event that often draws more spectators in the mornings than in the evenings, but either way, tens of thousands will be joining us. Contact us early if you'd like a reservation for a ride. Some of our friends count on a ride each year! AdirondackBalloonFest.org