21 Ballooning Problems - A Hot Air Balloon Pilot's Guide

They're The Best Problems To Have

Reading Time - 5 minutes

Hot air balloon pilots live a charmed life.

Our workplace is the UK sky, our office is a wicker basket and our colleagues are the hundreds of lovely hot air balloon ride passengers we get to take on an unforgettable experience like no other.

But a career as a hot air balloon pilot is not without its problems, oh no.

So in honour of Virgin Balloon Flights' ongoing 21st birthday celebrations, read on for our 21 ballooning problems! #VBFTurns21

1) Friendly Landowners

When you land in their field they come out to greet you with tea, coffee, biscuits, and CAKE!

So much cake! #pilingonthepounds

2) Boggy Fields

Generally more of a problem for our trusty crew members.

Every so often, our pilots love to challenge their ground teams’ retrieval skills by picking the wettest, muddiest fields they can land in.

Wellies anyone?

3) Caffeine Fix

Landing outside a lovely little village only to find out that either a) it doesn’t have a coffee shop or b) you’re too early or too late for it to be open.

4) Flight Suit Envy

Here at Virgin Balloon Flights, our flight uniform consists of a black polo shirt and a matching baseball cap.

Not quite the sexy pilot look Tom Cruise gets to model in Top Gun!

5) Rain

Just about every other type of aircraft can quite happily be flown if the heavens open but not a hot air balloon.

Rain cools down the air inside the balloon, making it too difficult to control.

So our poor pilots have to find something else to keep themselves entertained on a rainy day.

6) Too Many Gorgeous Views

There are so many stunning landscapes to fly over in the UK that it’s just impossible to choose a favourite.

7) Traffic Jams

We get to watch as the rest of you sit in them while trying not to feel too smug about it as we drift past you overhead.

It’s harder than you’d think!

8) Flying Abroad

Balloon pilots are like swallows.

We get to fly through the UK skies all summer then when winter arrives, most of us head off to warmer (or sometimes snowier!) climates to fly some more.

It’s a tough life but someone has to do it.

9) Broken Nails

It’s impossible to have nice nails when you’re a balloon pilot.

Between the soot and pulling the burner valves, a manicure is pointless as it would be ruined in minutes.

10) Fly Pasts

When you’re up in a balloon, other pilots in the area often want to come and say hello.

We’ve had fly pasts from Tiger Moth pilots and even a Lancaster Bomber.

The trouble is, once your passengers have had a wave from a friendly plane pilot, no matter how wonderful the rest of the balloon flight is, it can’t really compete.

11) Size Matters

Virgin Balloon Flights operates the biggest hot air balloon you can get in the UK, the Cameron A-400, which holds a whopping 400,000 cubic feet of air and can carry 16 passengers.

With their eye-catching red also making them one of the prettiest balloons in the sky, it’s hard not to get carried away with the knowledge that bigger is better.

Read more about where our hot air balloons are made.

12) Wind

Not having enough of it is rubbish (who wants to just go ‘up and down’?!) but too much of it is even worse.

Read more about how the weather affects hot-air balloon flights.

13) Lie-Ins (Or Rather ‘Lack Of’)

What’s one of those again?

If we have a good flying season, we’re usually in the air by 6.30 am so are lucky if the alarm goes off any later than 4.30 am!

Luckily, hot air balloon pilots are generally early risers anyway – we wouldn’t have chosen it as a career if weren’t morning people.

14) Being The Coolest Mum Or Dad Around

The parents among us have had to get used to becoming the equivalent of a rock star in the eyes of our children’s friends.

Similarly, our kids have to get used to constantly being told their mum or dad has the coolest job around.

(We secretly love the attention, by the way, just don’t tell anyone!)

15) Hopeless Romantics

It’s no surprise that hot air ballooning is so synonymous with romance and whether we're willing to admit it or not, every pilot loves it when we get a sky-high proposal.

(As in two of our passengers get engaged on a flight, not that someone asks us for our hand in marriage!)

Never mind hot air balloon pilots - just call us the cupids of the air!

16) Holding It In

Balloon pilots quickly learn to make a quick toilet stop before they fly, given the chances of their being anywhere to go where they land are generally slim to none.

And for the times they do forget to go beforehand, we get really good at holding it in!

17) Sensible Footwear

Even on the warmest of days, you’ll see balloon pilots in sturdy, sensible footwear.

It only takes one time while packing away your balloon to find you’ve deflated it on a bed of stinging nettles to guarantee you never make the mistake of lightweight shoes again! #ouch

18) Font Of All Knowledge

You can’t be a commercial hot air balloon pilot if you’re not the chatty sort with a vast memory bank of interesting facts about the places you fly over.

We’re not only pilots, we’re tour guides.

However, you can guarantee that on every flight, at least one question is asked that we don’t know the answer to.

“So exactly how many types of fish are there in Lake Windermere?”

Erm… a lot?

19) Feathered Friends

Enjoying nature in all its glory is what hot air ballooning is all about.

However, the ‘little gifts’ our feathered friends can leave on our lovely balloons are rather less appealing.

Cleaning bird poo off our balloons and baskets is one of the less glamourous parts of our career – it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it.

20) Big Breakfast

Our morning flights usually take place too early for breakfast, which means we’re pretty hungry once they’re finished three or four hours later.

Therefore we just have to enjoy a good old full English as often as we can.

In fact, it's pretty much written into hot air ballooning law, so we really don’t have a choice. Honestly.

Mmmmmmmm, bacon.

21) Causing A Scene

Our hot air balloons are rather large and as a result, often cause quite a stir when they come in to land in residential or public areas.

But if you see one of our lovely balloons touching down near your house, there really is no need to panic.

We travel with the wind and bring our aircraft down where we see a big enough open space.

And we’re really very good at it too.

So if you spot us landing nearby, feel free to pop across and say hello.

You can even help us pack away if you really want to!

Find out more about how our lovely red balloons fly and land.

Hop On Board And Our Hot Ballooning Problems With Us

If all of the above sounds pretty awesome, we would love for you to join us in experiencing some of our hot air ballooning problems for yourselves, given they're pretty much the best sort of problems you can have.

Nothing else compares to the spectacular feeling of floating majestically through the skies, the world at your feet as you pass over some of the UK's most stunning landscapes.

Ready to hop on board? Buy our hot air balloon ride vouchers here.

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