Would You Like to Ride in a Beautiful Balloon?
- Categorized in: Features – Past Issues
Ron Broderick inflates his balloon, Dream Star, to take passengers Max Dell and Cassie Krause on their adventure.
Jimmy Webb’s 1967 hit song, “Up, Up and Away,” is not only the unofficial anthem of the 1960s; it is a tribute to the magical experience of balloon flight.
Riding in a hot air balloon remains a thrilling experience despite more than two centuries of advancements in aviation. There is no sudden takeoff or descent. Lift-off is a gradual glide up into the sky, silent except for the occasional roar of the propane-powered burner that fills the massive, often brilliantly colored envelope that carries a wicker passenger basket beneath.
Ron Broderick, pilot and owner of Friendship Hot Air Balloons, located in West Friendship, in Howard County, provides hot air balloon flights over Carroll, Frederick and Howard counties.
“We offer two flights per day, generally,” said Broderick, “just before dawn and 2 ½ hours before sunset.”
Friendship Hot Air Balloons has been around for 20 years. Broderick became interested in flying hot air balloons about 26 years ago when he began attending balloon festivals.
An FAA licensed hot air balloon pilot, Broderick has been flying since 1992. The company participates in several balloon festivals each year on the East Coast, including the Preakness Celebration in May and the New York State Festival of Balloons in Dansville, N.Y., in September. He said the majority of hot air balloon flights are limited to April through October.
From the time the first hot air balloon was launched by the French scientist Pilatre De Rozier on Sept. 19, 1783, carrying a sheep, a duck and a rooster as passengers, hot air balloons have become a symbol of adventure and a source of inspiration and beauty to generations of people who dream of soaring with the birds.
About two months after De Rozier’s experiment, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier ushered in the era of manned flight by piloting a hot air balloon over Paris for 25 minutes.
Friendship operates two balloons – 90,000 and 105,000-cubic-foot bags. The smaller of the balloons carries a basket that accommodates two people and the larger carries a four-passenger basket. Regular flights cost $260 per person for a 45- to 60-minute flight. Romantic flights for two run $675 per couple, with the same average flight time.
The company also offers short tethered flights at a much lower cost. The longer flights offer the touchdown champagne toast tradition started by the Montgolfier brothers as a way to placate farmers for any crop damage caused when their balloon landed.
Although balloons fly where the wind wills, the company uses “seven different launch sites in the area,” Broderick said. “We seldom land in the same place twice. The winds are always changing.”
Another hot air balloon company, Light Flight Hot Air Balloons Inc. & Barnstormer Aero, located in Bel Air, is one of the few year-round, full-time balloon and adventure aviation companies in the state. Its president, Mike Gerred, said the company has operated for 31 years, and offers flights in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
“We have multiple aircraft and operate seven days per week,” Gerred said. “We have four balloons: 105,000, 126,000, 141,000 and 240,000 cubic feet. The standard basket carries up to four passengers, but the largest can carry up to 10. We have three launch spots.”
Light Flight offers a variety of balloon experiences: the one-hour champagne charter flight, for $235 per passenger; the half-hour flight, for $175 per passenger; the private charter flight with a romantic twist for $800 per couple, and tethered balloon promotions, which can be booked for parties, grand openings and other events. The costs for the tethered balloon promotions vary based on the time involved.
For those seeking a faster and more exciting flying experience, the company offers barnstormer flights in a 1941 U.S. Navy N2S-3 Stearman biplane trainer.
Flight packages include the “Cadet's Flight,” a 20-minute flight over Havre de Grace and the upper portion of the Chesapeake Bay, for $145; the “Ensign's Flight,” a 30-minute flight in the direction of the customer's choice, for $195; the “Captain's Flight,” a 45-minute flight in the direction of the customer's choice for $275; and the “Admiral's Flight,” a personalized hour-long tour in the direction of the customer's choice.
A third hot air balloon company, Up, Up & Away, located in Baldwin, Baltimore County, is operated by Matt Lidinsky. Lidinsky has been ballooning since the age of six, obtained his private license at 17 and his commercial license when he was 18. He has 10 years of flight experience. In addition to flying balloons in the United States and Canada, he has piloted a hot air balloon in China.
Lidinsky said each flight includes a champagne toast and lasts an average of 45 to 60 minutes. The champagne flight is $235 per person; and the romantic hot air balloon flight for two is $625.
How to Fly
Friendship Hot Air Balloons - www.ballooningusa.com
Light Flight Hot Air Balloons Inc. and Barnstormer Aero - www.fun-flying.com
Up, Up & Away Hot Air Balloon Company - www.marylandballoonflights.com