With all of the hot air balloon festivals that take place around Virginia, one might wonder about the possibility of skydiving out of a hot air balloon. Everyone’s heard of a hot air balloon ride, but a hot air balloon skydive? Is it even possible??
It sure is! If it can fly, chances are you can jump out of it. And if you can jump out of it, you can bet there’s a long line of skydivers just waiting to get their chance.
Hot air balloons are a lot harder to come by than airplanes. But that doesn’t make them any less desirable to skydive from. In fact, in a lot of cases, it makes them even more appealing. There are two types of skydivers: those who have jumped out of a hot air balloon and those who want to!
Hot air balloons offer a completely different experience than a typical skydive. Everything from the ride up to the landing brings something new to the table. Standing in a wicker basket and floating thousands of feet into the air is quite a bit different than hunkering down in the steel body of an airplane. And don’t get us started on how cool it feels to fall off the edge of the basket!
Of course, that also means there are certain requirements that need to be met to jump from a balloon. Balloons pose different challenges than airplanes do, and it’s important to make sure every skydiver is equipped with the skills to be as safe as possible.
Ready to add something awesome to your bucket list? If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime skydive, a hot air balloon jump is the way to go!
So, what’s the big deal about jumping from a hot air balloon anyway? How different can it really be? Quite a bit, actually. Sure, it still involves falling through the air and parachutes. But that’s about where the similarities end!
First of all, the ride to altitude is a completely different animal. Instead of being seated inside a loud metal tube traveling at 150 mph, a balloon peacefully floats you to altitude in near silence. You’ll be contained by nothing but the chest-high walls of a wicker basket. You’ll feel the crisp air on your face and the heat from the burner on your shoulders. Imagine how amazing it would be to watch the ground slip away as you rise higher and higher into the air!
Probably the most significant difference is the jump itself. Instead of exiting an airplane door into a windy sky, leaving a hot air balloon is a lot more like jumping off a cliff. Just super high up! Hot air balloons can hang in the sky almost completely still. That means that when a skydiver steps off the side of the basket, they’re falling into what’s referred to as “dead air.”
A dead-air exit feels like a weightless drop … and it’s amazing. It’s not something skydivers get to experience very often. The fall is extremely quiet at first and it’s very hard to control body positioning until a few seconds into the jump. Exiting a balloon is like surrendering to the sky!
Even landing from a balloon jump is a little bit different than normal landings. Balloons are subject to wind currents and can’t exactly control their flight path. This means that wherever the balloon happens to be when you exit is where you’re going to land! Landing away from the airport takes additional precaution and planning, and is something to consider before deciding to jump out of a balloon.
A lot goes into making a balloon jump happen. Just finding a balloon and pilot can be a monumental task. And even once the ride is secured, planning the jump takes some work.
Balloons are different from airplanes in that they need almost zero wind conditions to fly safely. This greatly limits the times that a balloon can even leave the ground. It’s best to plan balloon jumps very early in the morning or late afternoon when winds tend to be lowest.
Even then, there will inevitably be some wind at higher altitudes. This will cause the balloon to drift during the flight and landings will be away from the airport. Looking at the speed and direction of the upper winds is imperative to understanding where the balloon will be when it’s time to exit. It’s not safe to just blindly land anywhere, so choosing a suitable landing area before leaving the balloon is a must.
And don’t forget about a ride back! Even on low-wind days, walking back to the starting point would be quite the trek. Especially with all that gear! Someone should be assigned to drive a chase car that can follow the balloon and collect the skydivers as they land.
Some places will let you do your very first jump out of a hot air balloon — as a tandem, of course! But most hot air balloon jumps require a certain level of certification and training. A “B” license or higher is generally accepted as the standard for jumping out of a hot air balloon.
With the different procedures, extra planning, and higher stakes landings, it’s important to have the knowledge and experience necessary to make the balloon jump a safe one. After all, skydiving is supposed to be fun, not scary! Well okay, not too scary.
Are you ready to take the first step to jumping out of a hot air balloon? Come do a tandem with us and we’ll show you the ropes! Blue skies!
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.