It might seem unlikely that a basket tied to a nylon envelope is safe – even less so when there’s a propane burner throwing flames into the envelope – but hot air balloons are one of the safest ways to travel by air. If you’re not sure what we mean by “envelope”, you can take a look at our blog about the parts of a hot air balloon.
Like any other vessel in aviation, hot air balloons are licenced, regulated aircraft. Pilots must have substantial training and be highly competent to operate a balloon, with knowledge of how to cope with any problems and circumstances that might arise during the course of a flight.
Balloon Adventures Italy captain, Peter Kollar, is one of the world’s most experienced passenger balloon pilots. With over 4000 fights under his belt, he is the perfect person to show you the breathtakingly beautiful Umbria region from a hot air balloon.
Peter started a balloon company in New Zealand in 1991 – first employing other pilots. Soon realising that he needed to fly himself to make a success of his venture, he got his private licence within a year and had upgraded to a commercial licence by 1992. Since then, he’s acquired commercial pilot’s licences in Germany, Hungary and the United Arab Emirates. He is an instructor and a Civil Aviation Authority appointed examiner. He is also a world record holder for dropping 40 skydivers from a giant balloon.
Even though Peter is an all-round great guy with loads of experience, you might still be concerned about the fact that a hot air balloon can’t really be steered. It is true, balloons fly with the wind, but with the right training and experience it can be made very safe.
Basically, there’s no reason to worry. For a host of reasons – modern technology, strict regulations and skilled pilots – hot air balloons are an incredibly safe way to fly.
Modern Technology: In terms of the actual construction of the balloon, ripstop nylon and improvements in propane tank design are two of the biggest factors making ballooning safer. Constructing balloon envelopes from ripstop nylon means they’re more durable, while modern propane tanks ensure the balloon can be filled safely and reliably. Combine these technologies with the ever increasing predictive power of meteorology, rapid internet access, and ballooning becomes incredibly safe.
Strict regulations: As we mentioned before, balloons are subject to the same rules as any other aircraft and balloon pilots are put through their paces in practical and written exams. Every aircraft and pilot must be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority and comply will all laws before it can carry passengers. You can rest easy knowing that when you fly with Balloon Adventures Italy you’re flying with Italy’s only hot air balloon provider between Rome and Florence licenced by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Skilled pilots: Learning to fly a hot air balloon is no different from learning to fly and aeroplane or helicopter. Pilots must spend many hours flying – and taking exams – to ensure that they’re able to fly a balloon. The written exams cover a lot of the same material that’s examined for fixed-wing craft, like meteorology, navigation and aviation law. The pilots also need to be medically fit. They have to undergo twice a year a very thorough medical examination conducted by an aviation specialist.
With thousands of flying hours behind his name, you can be certain that Captain Peter is in complete control at all times. Although balloons are at the mercy of the wind when it comes to travelling in a particular direction, an experienced pilot is able to read the air currents that carry the balloon.
Knowing exactly when to inflate or deflate the envelope is a fine art; one that Peter has mastered. “The air above your head is made up of hundreds of different vectors, so you’re not only going in different directions, but also at different speeds. Most days there’s a significant amount of steerage that can be exploited by going up and down and looking at the wind,” he says.
Best of all though, Peter some amazing stories that he’s more than happy to share with you over breakfast after your ride over the Italian countryside – and in five languages, too!
Take a hot air balloon ride over Assisi with one of the most experienced pilots in the world.
Book a flight with Balloon Adventures Italy today.