The Journey Begins as passengers and crew busily assemble the equipment.
The pilot confirms that the weather conditions are suitable for the flight and briefs the passengers as to the safety procedures for the flight. The set up and inflation only take 15 minutes, however, there are sometimes weather delays for fog in the morning or for winds to calm in the evening.
The inflation begins as a large motorized fan blows cold air into the envelope (the fabric portion of the balloon). Hearts race as the seven story Kaleidoscope of colors rises from the ground.
After the balloon is fully inflated with cold air the burners are fired into the throat of the envelope. The balloon rises to become upright. Passengers board and the balloon is prepared for flight.
The launch is smooth and any breeze ceases as the balloon joins with the wind and becomes one with the sky. "It's not at all as I imagined" is a frequent route of many first-time balloon passengers. "It's as if you're standing on a platform and the world drops from below you. There is no sense of motion". The rush of emotions calms as a panoramic vista unfolds.
The balloon climbs to altitudes of 500 to 1500 feet above the ground. On clear days it is possible to see 100 miles. Most interest is much closer at hand as friends wave (in a balloon everyone is your friend). Dogs frequently bark their cautious warning, though usually not until it's clear that the magical beast has past them by. The occasional toot of a horn or shout from below can be easily heard. The silence between burns is ethereal in its calm.
Before you know it's time to land. (Flights normally last one hour)
Unlike airplanes, balloons rarely land at established airports. The pilot selects the most suitable landing site. The ground crew who have following by "chase vehicle" on the ground, are contacted to let them know the pilots intentions and so they may obtain permission from the landowner.
Upon landing, the envelope is deflated and packed into a chase vehicle. This is a job where many hands make light work. Passengers and onlookers are invited to get first hand experience if they're interested.
The festivities draw to a close with champagne or nonalcoholic sparkling grape juice and the presentation of the Sky Sail Balloons Inc. Aeronaut pin to proudly acclaim the passengers accomplishment.
The landowner is thanked and the passengers are given a ride back to the launch field. The ride back is usually full of stories. The crew collects adjectives about the flight, the highlights have been "Fantandabulus" and "Primordial" and some too salacious for print.
May the winds welcome you with softness
May the sun bless you with his warm hands
May you fly so high and so well
That God joins with you in laughter
And sets you gently back into
The loving arms of Mother Earth