Buying your first hot air balloon

It’s no secret that we love helping new balloon pilots. Whether that’s helping students with ground instruction, giving flight instruction, finding a student an instructor, or answering questions – we love helping new pilots.

One of the most common questions we get asked is, “what are some tips for buying my first balloon?” Here are a few tips:

  • Find someone local who has knowledge of balloons and lean on their expertise. If you have an instructor, ask your instructor for help identifying a balloon or what brand of balloon they are comfortable completing your training in. While all hot air balloons operate using the same basic principles, there can be major differences between brands of balloons. Different areas of the Country have different brands the majority of pilots in that area fly. Pilots and crew in those areas will be most comfortable and willing to train/help you if you are flying the same brand they are comfortable with.
  • Ask your local or nearest repair station. The local (or nearest) repair station should have a good idea of used equipment in the area. Oftentimes pilots mention to their local repair station that they are thinking about selling equipment a couple of years before they actually list the equipment for sale online. The local repair station can pass along your information or help with the sale. They also know the equipment condition and can give you an honest answer on the expected life of the balloon.
  • If you find a balloon for sale online that you like, never buy sight unseen. Ask your local expert, local repair station, or find out where the equipment was last inspected and contact that facility for help. Arrange to physically see the balloon and inspect its condition. Take someone with you who knows enough about balloons to verify its condition.
  • Inspect the balloon’s logbook and manuals. Before you buy, inspect the balloon’s logbook for repair and maintenance entries. If you have any questions, ask the repair station who completed the last inspection. Match up the serial numbers in the logbook to what you are buying.
  • Low hours is not always better. Balloons are always a bit of a mystery. Just like any other purchase the buyer should always beware. Balloon fabrics are different and batches of fabrics sometimes vary. The coatings used may be reacting differently or the balloon itself is treated differently from owner to owner. For example, if a balloon is stored wet, the fabric will degrade and possibly form mildew. If a balloon is constantly tarped and stored dry in climate controlled storage, the fabric will often remain ‘like new’ for a long period of time. It’s hard to really give any good rule of thumb. Balloons can degrade while in the bag. Beware of older balloons with low hours, the sitting fabric maybe degrading in the bag. A balloon should be inflated/flown a few times a year as well as packed away and stored dry to prevent fabric issues associated with sitting in the bag.

Hope that helps you with your next used balloon purchase. As always, if you have any questions please reach out to us and we will help in any way that we can.