The weather is our friend because it is what makes every flight unique but, even though we’d love to, we can’t control it (no matter how hard we try!). Our pilots absolutely love flying and never miss an opportunity, but of course, sometimes the weather is not suitable and your safety comes first. The pilot has to take guidance from meteorological information as to whether the balloon can fly or not. Three meteorological parameters are the most important for the flight:

  • Wind speed
  • Visibility
  • Nebulosity – the chance of storms or cumulus cloud

Wind is the most critical weather factor when it comes to ballooning and the most common reason for cancellations. The best state for ballooning is light stable winds; enough to guide the way but not too strong that it takes the balloon farther than the pilot has room to land safely. Such areas our pilots try to avoid landing include: metropolitan areas, restricted airspace, large bodies of water and large expanses of forest. It is quite dependent on the direction of the wind currents at the launch site as to whether the balloon will fly towards a suitable landing spot. To give our passengers more chance of flying, we have satellite sites (back ups) for all of our launch sites. So, if all other weather factors enable flying but the wind direction isn’t suitable from the chosen launch site, you may still be able to fly as we have other options.

Visibility is the next factor, which is of course hugely important to our balloon rides – we want to give you optimum views of the beautiful British countryside! Visibility is arguably the most difficult weather condition to predict as mist, fog and low cloud can vary within a few miles. Often it can be predicted if there has been some overnight rain; where the rain falls can give an indication to which areas will have excessive moisture in the air. This will form low lying cloud and ultimately will hinder the view. Finally, we obviously cannot fly in storms or cumulus clouds for similar reasons as above; visibility and the potential damage of flying in the rain.

Our decision whether to fly is not related to what other balloonists decide. Our pilots consider all weather factors and make their own decision. If you see other balloons in the air when your flight has been called off, it may be because the other balloon may have had better shelter from the wind at take-off or it could be a private balloon which can legally fly in poorer visibility and are generally easier to inflate and land. With 100+ launch sites and over 20 pilots flying every day, twice a day, there are plenty of chances to get airborne with our Virgin team!