Considering a hot air balloon ride this summer? Here’s a look at how a ride with Eagle’s Wings Hot Air Balloons works.
After arriving at the pilot’s office (connected to his house) in Rock Hill, South Carolina around 6:15 a.m. and signing a few safety waivers, it was go time.
The ride is super interactive.
You help unfold the balloon and blow it up — and eventually with the whole breakdown process. According to the pilot, Robert Sarratt, most large ride companies have crews to set up and take down the balloon, but he says customers really enjoy being able to interact first hand as a crew member.
Robert does a huge analysis of the wind to plan where you will take off and where you’ll potentially land. He has a relationship with almost everyone that lives in the area, so his landings are usually on properties of people he knows. Since he can not steer the balloon’s direction, it is truly up to chance where you end up landing. A chase team (his wife Peggy) is in a truck below following the balloon with a GPS system to make sure they can find you when you land.
Landing is a little nerve-racking, but for the most part the experience isn’t scary.
Cost: A balloon ride for two cost us $500. They also offer $300 individual rides and tethered events for $800 per hour. Eagles Wings was awesome, but if you’re hot air balloon shopping, here’s a quick list of top hot air balloon companies around Charlotte. Note that the pilot can make the experience. Robert and Peggy definitely made the experience as great as possible — especially with a champagne toast and a feast of cookies, fruit and cheese at the end of the journey.
Length: Generally, rides last about an hour. But everything is left up to the wind and how fast the balloon is going. The best estimate is from 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Speed and height: It depends on the wind. For example, at 300 feet up, they were going too fast, so the pilot dropped them down to 150 feet where they reached a steady 8 miles per hour. Overall, the pilot is trying to have an hour-long trip, so the height is constantly adjusted to have a solid speed.
Views: Whether you are 1,000 feet up (the maximum height), or only 150 feet up almost touching the tree tops, you will be able to see gorgeous farmland for miles.
The weirdest part: For the most part, the ride is silent. However, while adjusting the height of the balloon, the pilot ignites a burner. As they do so, animals below scatter and make lots of noise. You can hear dogs barking, cows mooing and horses running all around. Definitely a weird sight.