Stop Missing Landing Spots From Variable Surface Wind

Steep descent hot air balloon landing

Missed landing spots often happen when pilots perform a gradual descent or step down approach. Variable winds shift the balloon to the edge of the proposed landing spot...and you miss it.  

Instead of dropping slowly and too soon, use a fast approach or fast descent to landing.  Pilots who use the step-down approach or drop down to treetop too early often miss their target landing spot due to the variable winds below. The most effective way to approach a landing spot in light and variable winds is a steep approach. 

Steep approaches can often be uncomfortable if they aren’t practiced. What is fascinating is that most commercial hot air balloon ride operators descend at over 800ft a minute at some point on every flight. When was the last time you let your balloon descend at 800+ ft per minute? Do you know how long you need to burn to slow your descent to 200ft per minute or back to equilibrium?

On your next flight, practice getting the balloon into a terminal descent and time how long your burns need to be to get to equilibrium. Knowing how long it takes to arrest your balloon will give you the confidence you need to land safely and on target.