What Happens at a Hot Air Balloon Championship?

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It’s no secret that here at Virgin Hot Air Balloons, we employ some of the world's best pilots, but it’s not just something we say to sell more balloon rides! Through competing at Hot Air Balloon Championships, our pilots can prove to the world how good they are through a series of events.

How do balloons compete?

Balloons don’t race as such, as they obviously can’t all go in the same direction at the same time, but they can compete by winning one or more tasks. Tasks consist of many variations of an assignment but in nearly all cases, it involves balloonists throwing a lightly weighted streamer at a predetermined target of an ‘X’ on the ground.

What else?

Other tasks depend on the level of the competition entered but some of the tasks currently employed are:

  • Pilot Declared Goal-competitors drop a marker close to a goal declared by the pilot before the flight.
  • Hesitation Waltz-drop a marker close to several set goals.
  • Fly In-pilots find their own launch area and drop a market close to a set goal or target.
  • Hare and Hounds-participants follow a hare balloon and drop a marker close to a target displayed by the hare no more than two meters upwind of the basket after landing.

How to get involved

Join a local club and start flying with other balloonists. Once you’re confident enough, go to a few festivals to try a few hare and hounds tasks and check with other balloonists when there are competitions across the country. Many events have training events where pilots and crew can be introduced to flying.

Virgin Balloon Flights Pilots

Last week, our Chief pilot, Ken Karlstrom, took part in the 22nd FAI European Hot Air Balloon Championships. After 6 flights and 19 tasks with 81 pilots competing from 23 countries, Ken came in a respectable 9th place!

This is a massive achievement as he worked incredibly hard to make us all proud at Virgin Balloon Flights. Well done Ken!

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