Dry weather good for hot air balloon business

Jan 10, 2014 10:55 PM

It takes about 30 million BTU's, or enough heat to power 60 household heaters, to get a hot air balloon off the ground. Brann Smith has been flying hot air balloons for 14 years. A Chico native, Smith decided to move back to the north state a little more than a year ago to start his new business venture, Skydancer Balloon Company. Smith says flying balloons is challenging at times because you can't be as precise with steering as you would in a plane or helicopter.

"When it comes time to land we don't have a mechanism to scoot over left or right. So, what we do is look ahead at what's in front of us and we use different altitudes for different directions," he says.

Smith says the north state offers a lot of open space, which is ideal for taking off and landing. He can take anywhere from 2 to 5 people up, and rides usually last about an hour and cost an average of $200 per person.

Some of the balloons are 8 stories tall, and when fully inflated you can fit about 6 average size houses inside of it. While the winter season is normally a slow period for rides, Smith says the dry weather has kept them busy.

"We haven't had a lot of storms with rain come in so we've been flying quite a bit, probably about 3 times as much as normal," he says.

The conditions have not only brought in a steady flow of customers, it's also helping the business save money on supplies.

"The colder the better for ballooning. It takes less fuel, and less heat to create the lift in the winter," says Smith.

So while the rest of us wait for some wet weather, Smith will continue to enjoy the calm before the storm while it lasts.


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