Riding hundreds of feet above the earth in a hot air balloon can be a real thrill. However, like every other adventure sport, hot air balloon ride comes with its share of risks. There have been numerous instances when hot air balloons have crashed and led to the death of riders. So, unless you are very sure about precautionary measures and ensure full protection, you must not go on a ride high up the sky. Here are certain important safety precautions and checks to make before you hitch a ride in a hot air balloon.
Every balloon should contain basic safety equipment. Make sure to gather information from reliable sources such as ballooning guides and expert websites. As a minimum, you should check whether the balloon has an onboard flint spark lighter, parachutes and fire extinguisher. A flint spark lighter is used in case the flame that keeps the balloon floating goes off in mid flight. The pilot can relight the flame and prevent a crash. Fire extinguisher is necessary for obvious reasons. The standard extinguisher used in most of the balloons is a AB:E 1 kg type.
You should also look for a drop line. In several countries, this is a mandatory inclusion. A drop line is very useful in landing when the pilot cannot steer the balloon effective because of mild wind. Since the balloon runs the risks of damage from the obstructions on the ground, the ground crew use the drop line dropped by the pilot during landing to guide the balloon away from ground obstructions. Typically, a drop line is a 30 meter long sturdy rope.
A balloon that is not well maintained is always unsafe. Regular maintenance is as crucial to balloons as it is for aircraft. The most vulnerable part of the balloon is its fabric. Any small rip or tear can lead to disastrous repercussions during flight. Any such damage should be immediately repaired.
Besides, before you get into a hot air balloon, make sure to check out the basket. It should be clean and meticulously organized. Disorganized baskets are a major indication of inefficient management and maintenance. Check for stains and dirt at the exteriors as well. Sometimes, balloons land in slushy or muddy areas. In such cases, the operator company needs to clean and dry the basket thoroughly. In order to ensure safe landing, the skids provided at the bottom of the basket need to be replaced if damaged. As per protocol, thorough servicing and maintenance is a requisite once every year or after 100 flight hours.
When you ride in a hot air balloon, your alertness can be your saviour. Be sensitive to the objects around you when you fly. Always keep a watch out for electrical lines, poles and masts that could collide with the balloon. Sometimes, the pilot might be concentrating on one particular thing and might not pay a lot of attention to obstacles. Deem it as your personal responsibility to alert the pilot in such circumstances.
Listen to what you are told
Before you take off, you are briefed about terms and conditions to be followed during the flight. These rules are for your own good. So, make sure you follow them implicitly.