There can be many reasons individuals wish to take a hot-air balloon flight. It can be a new hobby, or they wish to take a commercial balloon trip over some unique part of the country, or even encounter one of the many balloon festivals.
One of the questions often asked is about hot-air balloon safety, and what are the risks of taking on such an endeavor?
In our guide, you can learn more about how safe are hot air balloons and the chances of an accident likely to happen than other aircraft that you can fly in.
By the end, you may be surprised at the numbers of this kind of travel and that balloon rides and flights are far safer than you expected. (Read How Long Can A Hot Air Balloon Stay In The Air)
What Are the Odds of Dying in a Hot-Air Balloon?
Measuring the statistics over a 12-yr period from 2000 through 2011. There were around 169 crashes concerning hot-air balloon rides.
Of this, there were five hot-air balloon deaths which were 1%, 91 suffered serious injuries (18%), and 94 suffered minor injuries.
Half of these happened in commercial tours, where the balloons were under the control of tour operators’ pilots. However, you can see from the figures; passengers will find travelling by balloon very safe compared to other forms of flying.
Although safe, industry experts are stating hot air ballooning has become a loosely regulated industry. (Read How Does Barometric Pressure Affect Weather?)
The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) tried to introduce tighter regulations, although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) refuses to impose tighter regulations on balloon ride operators and balloon pilots.
Are Hot Air Balloons Dangerous?
Hot air ballooning as a sport is recognized by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) as the safest air sport there is in any form of aviation.
Fatalities in hot-air balloon accidents are rare and can often be attributed to freak accidents with ground crew at launch or as they land. They can even be a crash involving power lines or such, rather than an issue with the balloon in regular flight.
Has Anyone Ever Died in a Hot-Air Balloon?
One of the worst incidents that bucks the trend of hot-air balloon safety was in 2016. It has gone on to be the deadliest hot-air balloon accident in U.S. history.
It took place in Texas and involved a sightseeing balloon filled with 15 passengers. The pilot, unfortunately, hit a power line and the balloon subsequently crashed. All the people died in this instance.
Besides an accident like this, a crash is not as common as it can appear. Ballooning can be a glorious experience for all the family and with no significant risk.
Can Hot Air Balloons Catch on Fire?
One of the biggest concerns for any passenger is whether hot-air balloons catch fire. You will find the balloon is made in such a way and from materials rather than burn; it would melt. If you point the burner toward the side, you can ruin one or two inside panels, yet this isn’t sufficient to cause flames.
It can be possible for a gondola (basket) to set on fire in rare instances on the ground.
Hot-air balloon accidents are rare, yet they occur and can cause severe or fatal injuries. A hard landing can lead to whiplash, broken bones or brain injury.
Here are a few safety concerns and a few safety tips everyone should follow when inside a hot-air balloon.
Bad weather is dangerous for hot air balloons, especially in windy conditions. Unfortunately, even weather reports can be wrong, and weather conditions can change without warning. If this happens, hot-air balloon pilots must react quickly.
Crashes from collisions on hot-air balloons are more of major concern, especially during balloon rallies where there are large numbers of balloons in close vicinity to each other.
A collision may lead to accidents with a basket tipping over, causing a pilot to lose control, or it could start a fire on the aircraft where the burner ignites the basket. Most often, this would happen when they land but can occur in takeoff.
The collisions with stationary objects are more dangerous where the wind blows the equipment into sharp objects, trees or even electricity cables. Power lines can damage a balloon envelope, or if it catches right, it can ignite the burner inside a balloon.
Pilot experience does go a long way, and you can find many inexperienced pilots in charge of a hot-air balloon in the U.S.
With the current FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations, a balloon pilot only needs to pass a written examination to accompany 10 hours of balloon flight experience to gain their license.
Safety Tips for Hot Air Ballooning
Here are a few things to think about for balloon safety.
It can get cold when the wind hits you at high altitudes inside a balloon. Wear warm clothes and sturdy shoes.
Follow the Pilots Instructions
As you ride in a balloon, the trip can be unpredictable as balloons follow the weather patterns, and a pilot has to react accordingly as they try to fly through this. Listen to any instructions during takeoff, in the flight and as you land.
Brace for Your Landing
Landings can be rough compared to flying, and it is one reason it is advised not to take a hot-air balloon ride when pregnant. If it appears it could be rough, you may need to brace yourself, lean or squat as you land.
Even with hot air inside a balloon, the case for accidents is far less than modes of transport that use engines. Because you travel a couple of thousand feet in the air, it is easy to see what some people may be afraid of.
However, you can find ballooning a great way to experience the great outdoors with a view you can’t experience any other way.