Balloon Ride Weather Determination
This Page is Under Continued Construction!
We have put this page together to educate ride clients interested in knowing more about how Air Display first determines if we will even be meeting for your scheduled hot air balloon ride and then, if we will be flying.
Air Display does not control the weather (although we wish we could!). Air Display acts as a liason between yourself and the weather people (meteorologists). We have flown balloons for a long, long time and although riding the winds under an eight story tall, floating apartment building may seem thrilling, Air Display does not treat its ballooning as a thrill ride.
"The decision to meet is not the same as the decision to fly."
The decision to meet is made in advance of your scheduled balloon ride and only if Air Display determines the weather forecast looks promising (i.e. there is a reasonable expectation we'll be flying). This determination is made by the review and comparision of up to ten different weather sources including civilian sources and the official Canadian aviation weather forecasting service provided by NavCan. Note, Air Display considers official weather services provided by other countries (e.g. USA) as civilian here in Canada. Other weather related factors (not necessarily part of the current weather forecast) that could affect Air Display's decision to meet are, increasing surface winds (including gustiness) jus before our landing, wet and muddy fields (where the pilot usually lands the balloon) due to recent rains, potential fire risk due to an extended drought and of course, flooding.
"Air Display basis its decision to meet hoping the meteorologists are correct meaning, not hoping a poor forecast is wrong. We do not believe in the mantra "if in doubt, call them out" other commercial operators subscribe to."
The decision to fly is made on the launch field after Air Display's pilot has verified the actual weather conditions are as expected including wind speed and direction. Sometimes we must wait for conditions to improve. An example is waiting for early morning fog to dissipate (the pilot must always be able to see the ground and be sure that when the balloon is in flight, it's seen by other aircraft!). Another example is waiting for daytime surface winds to subside. If either of these waits go too far beyond sunrise or too close to sunset, Air Display's pilot will cancel the flight.
"Launching the balloon is optional. Landing the balloon is manditory!"
Air Display tries real hard to avoid the inconvenience of a field cancellation to both its ride clients and crew but, field cancellations can and do happen. Early morning fog and surface winds failing to subside, are the usual culprits. Please accept our apologies in advance.
"We want you to want to go ballooning again and we want you to refer us to your friends."
Air Display is conservative in its decision making. We understand we are carrying first time flyers who may be apprehensive. Your balloon ride is not a test of our piloting skills. In fact, one of the measures for our success is how relaxed the flight is. So be patient if you are waiting for your balloon ride and be prepared because sometimes flights can get a little "sporty". Weather is weather.
"Passenger ride balloon flying is very different from "sport" balloon flying which is very different from competition balloon flying."
Weathering Reporting Centres
In the old days, a human meterologist talked you through what they saw on their montioring instruments and shared their experienced "gut" feel of what those instruments were saying and what the sky was telling them. Yes, they actually looked out windows back then!
After a while these "old timer" weatherpersons (both genders!) got to know you as a balloon pilot and knew exactly what information you were keen for. These weather briefers dealt with many types of aircraft and many types of pilot personalities. They were familiar with the wants and needs of each aviation discipline. Unfortunately that luxury is pretty much gone. Now what the pilot gets from the NavCan FIC (Flight Information Centre) is usually (not always!) a read back of a computer screen without the second sight, experience provides. This is why Air Display uses many information sources (both government and civilian, both local and foreign) to get an overall expert consensus (opinion) of what the data is saying. When all the sources agree, you can be assured the forecast is reasonably accurate.
"The superior balloon pilot uses their experience, knowledge and skill to avoid situations that require their experience, knowledge and skill to get out of."
To Be Continued.........