Can you steer a hot air balloon?
The answer is yes and no. Yes, using wind patterns you can control the general direction of the balloon. No, you do not have precise steering such as a car, boat, or other common vehicles.
Wind speed and direction change at different altitudes, allowing you to steer in general directions.
The speed and direction are not predictable, so for that reason, pilots will have a number of possible launch and landing locations. Whichever locations make the most sense with the current wind conditions are chosen.
Sometimes right before the flight, pilots will release a helium balloon to get a visual sense of the wind.
Note: these are our favorite helium balloons. They are large and easy to see on the way up.
If you want to support Hot Air Flight, we do make a small commission if you purchase the balloons.
During the flight, winds are subject to change. It is important that pilots measure the wind while in the air and decide if they should stay with their predetermined landing location or switch it.
A number of factors affect wind speed and direction, but the main two are pressure and temperature. During sunrise and sunset (which are common balloon ride times) the temperature of the earth changes because of the sun. This will result in changing winds.
A pilot can gauge changing winds by dropping items from the balloon. For example, many pilots spray shaving cream and watch how the winds affect its drop.
How to become a pilot
If you are interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot, you can go to our pilot page. It will get you in contact with the best training based on your location.
You can also fill out this form and we will get you in touch with an instructor.