Q: How much does it cost?     

A. $250 for one person, $475 for two, $675 for three, and $850 for four. Children 12 and under are $125.

Q. How long does the flight last?
A. Flights typically range from 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours, depending upon weather, time of sunset, and availability of landing sites.

Q. What time of year do you go?
A. Year round, weather permitting, although most flights take place between April and November.

Q. What should I wear?
A. Often times people think that it will be a lot colder up in the balloon. What they don't realize is that there will be a large burner above their heads that shoots a 5 foot flame up into the balloon to keep it aloft. The burner will help keep you warmer. A good rule of thumb is to wear clothes that you would be comfortable standing outside in. It will pretty much feel the same up in the balloon as on the ground. The best solution would be to dress in layers, so that you may adjust according to your comfort level. Poper footwear is important, particularly when the ground is cold or wet.

Q. How do you steer the balloon? Can I pick some destinations I'd like to see?
A. Unfortunately, the balloon cannot be steered in the traditional sense. The balloon goes where the wind takes it, and the pilot has no way to steer it in a definite direction. The pilot can, however, adjust the balloon's altitude to pick up different directional winds. This, in conjunction with pre-flight planning using weather reports, is used to achieve a manner of 'steering' in the loosest sense of the word.

Q. What if there is no wind?
A. Rarely is there a day with absolutely no wind here in Connecticut. Typically the wind increases in velocity as you climb to higher altitudes, so on very calm days (on the surface) we would likely fly somewhat higher than on days with a light breeze on the ground.

Q. What about a group of people, including people who want to watch?
A. While the balloon only holds 4-5 adults, we can accommodate larger groups by landing enroute and changing passengers out, or, with sufficient advance notice, by having one or more additional balloons join us. As far as family and friends goes, they are more than welcome to participate in the set up and inflation of the balloon, and then they can ride in or follow the chase vehicle as the balloon floats over the countryside, take part in the landing and deflation phase, and join in the champagne celebration at the conclusion of the flight!

Q. Can we take off from my house?
A. Yes, providing that there is a suitable grassy area roughly 70ft x 90ft (larger is better!) that is away from power lines, the winds are from a favorable direction for that location, and the weather cooperates. If there is a suitable area nearby, you need to ensure that you can obtain permission from the landowner(s) prior to the day of the flight.

Q. How do I pay?

A. Check, cash, or money order. A $50 deposit is required when making a reservation. The deposit is refundable if you call to cancel at least 48 hours in advance, or the weather precludes us from flying and you can not reschedule the flight. Gift certificates are paid for in advance, and you simply need to know your gift certificate # when making a reservation.

Q. What do I need to do in order to purchase a gift certificate?
A. See detailed explanation in the Gift Certificates section.

Q. Will the ride be bumpy and scary? Will it be fast or slow?
A. The balloon ride will be very smooth, with the possible exception of the landing. When you are up in the air in a hot air balloon you do not feel yourself moving, because you are flying with the wind. It's been described as if you are standing still, and the world beneath you is moving. The landing may be slightly bumpy if there is a lot of wind. But usually the landings are just as smooth at the rest of the flight.

Q. Is it dangerous?
A. You are much more likely to be involved in an accident driving to the balloon meeting place, or struck by lightning, than you are to be hurt during a balloon flight. That being said, there is some small risk, and people who have physical handicaps, bad backs, artificial joints, and the like, need to let the pilot know ahead of time so that we can assure your safety by having additional equipment on hand, being a bit more conservative, weather wise, etc. Children are more than welcome, as long as they are at least 45 inches tall and can see out of the basket unassisted.

Q. Can I take a camera?
A. Cameras, binoculars, cell phones, video recorders, etc, are all encouraged. Make sure that you have extra batteries and film!

Q. What if it's bad weather on the day we're supposed to fly?
A. If the weather prevents us from going up, you will get a phone call from Thad as soon as he can determine that the conditions aren't flyable. He checks the weather the night before each flight, as well as early in the morning the day of. If we have to cancel a flight, we will reschedule it for another time.

Q. How do we get back from where we land?

A. The GONE Ballooning team consists of the pilot, Thad Burr, and a chase crew member. The chase crew is responsible for helping setup the balloon, cleaning up after landing, and following by car wherever the balloon goes. This way, when we land, the car and trailer are right there so that we may pack up the balloon and be on our way. After packing up we will drop you back off where you left your car.

Q. How does the balloon fly?
A. Hot air balloons rise when heat is applied to the air inside, and descend when the air inside cools off, or is vented out. "Flying" occurs by floating along with whatever wind currents are encountered at that altitude.

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is a balloon made of?
A. A balloon system consistes of three major parts:

the fabric, or "envelope"
the basket, or "gondola"
the burners and associated plumbing.

The envelope is constructed out of lightweight ripstop nylon, coated with polyurethane to reduce the porosity. It typically contains over 1000 yards of fabric, and over 3 miles of thread. The basket is made of wicker, or rattan, which is ideal for being strong, flexible, and aesthetically pleasing to look at. The burner system consists of two independent burners, two 20 gallon liquid propane tanks, and heats at a rate of over 10 million BTU's per hour!

Q. How exactly does a balloon work?
A. Heat, generated by the burner system, rises inside the envelope, expands, decreases the air density inside the balloon, which then causes it to rise. Allowing the air to cool causes the balloon to level off, and subsequently descend. To assist in "maneuvering" the balloon, we carry an altimeter, a rate of climb indicator, and a pyrometer (a temperature probe at the very top of the balloon).

Q. How big is the balloon?
A. The balloon I fly is an Aerostar RXS-8, containing 105,000 cu ft of air when fully inflated, and capable of carrying 4-5 adults in addition to the pilot. The balloon is 68 ft high, and nearly 60 ft in diameter.

Q. How far will we go?
A. As far as the wind takes us! Based on 35+ years of flying balloons, I can confidently predict that we will go somewhere between 3 miles and 15 miles, depending upon the wind conditions and the available landing sites up ahead.

Q. I've heard of something called a Splash 'n Dash. What's that?
A. A "Splash 'n Dash" is a controlled descent down to the water, resulting in the bottom of the basket just "kissing" the water surface before adding heat and rising back into the air again. Some of the most spectacular pictures taken of balloons over the years are taken during these water "touch and goes"!

Q. What should I bring?
A. Just yourself, and your camera. You won't need anything else. And don't forget to dress appropriately!

Q. What about "tethered" flights?
A. Tethering, or flying a balloon up and down 50-100 feet while anchored to the ground with anchor lines (ropes), allows many more people to experience some of the excitement of ballooning with only a single balloon. Typically, 40-60 people/hour can be accommodated, and it makes for a unique birthday party or other special event!

Q. How are balloons inflated?
A. The envelope, or fabric, is stretched out on the ground, the neck of the envelope is held open, and ambient air is blown into the envelope by an "inflator fan". Once the envelope is fully inflated, heat from the burners heats the air inside the balloon until the balloon rises up and stands erect. The total process takes about 20 minutes with an experienced crew.

Q. How high can we go?
A. While balloons have set altitude records in excess of 60,000 feet, legally we can only go up to a maximum of 10,000 feet without carrying oxygen. On a normal flight we usually go no higher than a few thousand feet. Also, the air temperature decreases at a rate of about 3 degrees F per 1000 feet, so flying at 10,000 feet can get quite chilly.

Q. When are the best times to fly?
A. Early morning, shortly after sunrise when the winds are calm, or 2-3 hours prior to sunset when the afternoon convective activity is dying down. The balloon has such a large "sail" area, that flying with surface winds over 8 mph is usually not advised.

Q. Where do we land? How will we get back to our car?
A. Since a balloon travels with the wind, it is not possible to predict exactly where the balloon is going to land ahead of time. Our chase crew will follow us as we are airborne, maintaining radio contact, so that they can assist us as we come in to land. Safety is our number one priority, and we look to land in areas clear of crops, livestock, and other obstacles, especially power lines. Balloonists are highly dependent upon the goodwill of landowners, therefore we do everything possible to get permission prior to landing, minimizing any damage to their land, and thanking them with a bottle of champagne upon landing. After the balloon is packed up and stowed in the trailer, we will drive everyone back to our original meeting place, and if we haven't celebrated with the landowner, we will then enjoy food and drink in the company of our new found friends, and toast the memories of our unique flight.

Q. If I wanted to pursue a balloon license, what would be involved? How expensive is the sport?
A. Balloons range from small experimental types, to huge "special shape" balloons, and the cost varies accordingly. The balloon community is comprised of people from all walks of life, including teachers, farmers, lawyers, police, secretaries, you name it. A Private license can cost from $4,000 - $6,500 depending upon whether you have your own balloon or not. A Commercial/Instructor's rating will cost an additional $2,000 to $3,000. Pilot applicants must also complete a ground school course, take an FAA written exam, and complete a satisfactory check-ride with an FAA designated examiner.

Q. How do I know if my pilot is experienced?
A. Balloon pilots, as with other commercial pilots, are required to do a minimum of 3 take-offs and landings every 90 days. In addition, balloon pilots attend annual safety seminars, and must demonstrate their flying proficiency every two years to an Instructor. Most balloon pilots (myself included) in this area have accumulated well over 500 hours of hot air balloon time. Equally important, though, is how often they fly in any given year, as ballooning is more reliant on sound judgment and experience than are many other types of aviation.

Q. What about advertising on your balloon?
A. We can carry a custom made 12 ft x 24 ft banner at additional cost. Balloons are, by their very nature, outstanding aerial billboards which attract attention from miles around. Balloon festivals alone attract over 30 million visitors each year, and several times that number see balloons floating over their neighborhoods during the course of the year.

Q. What about getting married or engaged in a balloon?
A. In the past I did occasionally take people aloft to get married, but since expectations are so high, and the weather may not cooperate, I have decided to no longer agree to do wedding flights, or post-wedding flights. If you are flexible with your plans, I will gladly take you and your intended up so that you can propose while airborne, but again, bear in mind that ballooning is a fair weather sport, and I will always err on the conservative side when it comes to deciding whether to fly or not.

Q. What if I have a fear of heights?
A. Many people, even those who can not ride on a ferris wheel, have had a wonderful time ballooning. Ballooning is not the same as flying on a small airplane where you feel the sudden ups and downs, and the motion makes you airsick. Most balloon passengers are surprised to know that they are off the ground, as the motion is generally very smooth, and once airborne, the balloon floats along effortlessly with the wind, so there is very little sensation of movement. That being said, if you know that you have a fear of heights, I would recommend not looking straight down, and I would definitely suggest that you discreetly mention this to your pilot ahead of time so that he can plan his profile accordingly. In 35+ years of flying balloons, only once have I had someone want to land early due to a fear of heights.

Q. What does "GONE" stand for?
A. Gondolas over New England!