One of the questions that balloon pilots get asked the most is “can you go ballooning in the rain?” Ballooning is a very weather-dependent activity, as the aircraft has no direct means of steerage or facilities to control its response to the weather. Before flying, pilots have to research conditions and receive accurate weather reports from the MET office and other meteorological services for the period in which they will be flying. It is essential that the air temperature, winds, dryness and ground condition are of a good enough standard to make the balloon flight completely risk-free. The short answer to the initial rain question is therefore ‘no’, but there are a number of very specific reasons as to why we avoid flying in wet weather for the safety of the passengers and crew.
A pilot will look for ideal conditions when discerning whether it is safe to fly. Good visibility, gentle winds on the surface at 2000ft, a cool air temperature and no rain are generally the requirements pilots will need. For this reason, most balloon flights occur just after sunrise and just before sunset, as it is a little cooler and the weather is at its most stable period of the day. Ground conditions must also be suitable, and not water-logged, allowing tow-vehicles and trailers to drive on the launch site and follow the balloon to retrieve you from your end location.
So all this may make it more clear why balloons don’t fly in the rain. The problem is that when the balloon envelope, basket, and the people inside it, get soaked by the rain, the whole vessel becomes significantly heavier. This weight will drag the balloon down and can cause dangerous crashes as it will be very difficult to steer the balloon or prevent it descending at a higher speed.
Storms in particular are dangerous as there is the added problem of high winds and temperatures. Stormy weather is risky for any form of aircraft, but especially hot air balloons, as they are very weather sensitive, light and can be dragged into the storm, because winds accelerate and head towards building stormy spots up to 100 miles away from its actual position.
In good conditions, hot air balloons are possibly the most safe form of aircraft in the world. Pilots will always ensure they have the utmost accurate and up-to-date forecasts to make sure that you are absolutely secure during your balloon flight, every time. If you’re booked onto a flight and the day ends up suffering from bad weather, don’t worry. Every good ballooning company offers you a back-up date that you choose when booking, which is another chosen date that you will switch onto if the first choice day is not suitable. Flying safe is the only way we fly in the UK.