What are Ballooning Competitions ?

23 September 2022

The Balloon Aloft flight team includes a number of championship winning pilots. They are often asked about what’s involved in competitive hot air ballooning and what it takes to do well in the sport.

Because there is no steering wheel on a balloon and you are essentially at the whim of the winds, the idea of competitive ballooning might seem strange however it is a complex and skilled sport to master.

How do you steer a balloon?

Without a steering wheel, a hot air balloon pilot must use the prevailing wind currents in order to change its flight course. The direction of the wind is usually associated with altitude.Often, at different altitudes, the wind will vary in its direction. By climbing or descending into these layers of air, the pilot is able to manoeuvre the balloon and thus change direction.

What does a balloon competition involve?

A hot air balloon competition requires competitors to score points by undertaking a number of set tasks, which are predetermined by an Event Director before a flight. This generally involves the pilot throwing a ‘marker’, a weighted streamer, at a target, usually a cross or road intersection with set coordinates. To get there the pilot needs to manoeuvre the balloon by using wind currents at various altitudes. Other tasks involve flying the minimum or maximum distance in a set time, achieving the greatest change in direction and other demonstrations of flying skill. Flying usually takes place in the early morning and evening and the eventual winner is the pilot who has accumulated the most points over the duration of the competition.

What skills does a competitor need? 

To do well in the sport, pilots must be highly skilled and focused to carefully manouevre their balloons over a set course with various goals and targets. They also need to demonstrate excellent teamwork. Each pilot has their own support crew on the ground whose job it is to provide the latest weather information to the pilot. The weather is always changing and it is essential that pilots have this information in order to be successful.

Are there proper rules?

Yes, there are! Like any professional sport there are rules that competitors must follow. These rules are set by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and dictate what tasks can be used during a competition and how a champion pilot will be decided.

Where can you go to see a balloon competition?

The Australian National Championships are held annually in different locations around the country. Next year’s championships are due to be held in Northam, Western Australia from 8th-13th May 2023.

The World Championships take place every two years with pilots travelling from around the world to compete.

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Hot Air Ballooning is a weather dependent activity. The Flexi Ticket option you have chosen can be rescheduled to another date in the event of a weather cancellation. This ticket option is 100% REFUNDABLE in the event of a weather or pilot determined cancellation. An admin fee may apply to any cancellations before your flight date but this ticket cannot be cancelled/rescheduled within 72 hours of your flight time.

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