Is Hot Air Ballooning Safe?
Safety is absolutely our number one priority in hot air ballooning. We are very proud to have a 100% safety record. Our pilots are fully licensed and certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and have extensive aviation experience. Our lead pilot, Dave, has been flying since 1999 and has over 3,000 flight hours. We welcome any questions regarding safety or any other aspect of ballooning.
What Does the Adventure Package Include?
The Adventure Package includes ground transportation to and from the launching and landing sites aboard our vehicle; the flight itself, which lasts approximately an hour; a short history of ballooning followed by a traditional champagne toast with the pilot and ground crew; and a full sit-down breakfast (anything on the menu) at Bob Evan’s Restaurant. Plan on your entire hot air balloon experience to last approximately 4-5 hours.
What Does the Sweetheart FlightInclude?
Our Sweetheart Flight (private flight) guarantees that you will be the only two passengers flying with the pilot that morning. It includes everything the Adventure Package offers—an approximately one-hour flight, champagne toast, all ground transportation, and a full breakfast at Bob Evan’s Restaurant.
How Long is the Flight?
Each of our flight experiences last approximately 4-5 hours. In addition to transportation time, you will witness the balloon’s inflation, fly for approximately one hour, share in the 200-year-old tradition of a complimentary champagne toast, and enjoy a full breakfast at Bob Evan’s Restaurant.
When and Where Do We Meet?
Our passengers meet us at one of two Bob Evan’s Restaurants located in the Tampa area approximately one hour before sunrise, which is any time between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. depending upon the time of year.
Meeting times, along with the weather, are always confirmed with our passengers the night before their flight, usually around 8:00 p.m. The chosen meeting location is at the discretion of the pilot.
Are There Any Sunset Flights?
We can only fly at sunrise in the Tampa Bay area due to sea breezes off the Gulf of Mexico every afternoon as well as thunderstorms during the summer months.
Why Do You Only Fly at Sunrise?
We must be in the air as close to sunrise time as possible due to thermal inversions in the atmosphere occurring approximately 2-3 hours after sunrise. Thermal inversions are invisible rising and falling bubbles of air as the sun heats the earth creating a potentially a dangerous situation. Your hot air balloon flight must occur before those bubbles form.
Weather concerns aside, watching the sun rise while taking a peaceful hot air balloon flight is a beautiful way to start your day!
How High Do You Fly?
We generally fly from treetop level to 1,000 feet, but your pilot may need to fly at higher altitudes to get the steering currents he needs to reach his target landing field.
What Will I See During the Flight?
Usually, you can see the Tampa skyline Tampa Bay, and often the Gulf of Mexico. When the sky is exceptionally clear, you might also view downtown Saint Petersburg.
During your hot air balloon flight, you will fly over a mixture of landscapes such as forests, lakes, ponds, and ranch and pasture land. At lower altitudes, a wide variety of wildlife can often be seen including deer, turkey, fox, ducks, alligators, turtles, and dogs are often spotted.
You will also commonly fly over both commercial and residential areas where you will see the people on the ground waving at you!
Do I Need to Make a Reservation?
Yes, reservations are required. You may call us directly at 813-969-1518 or click here to reserve online.
How Large Are the Balloons?
Balloons can be different sizes, beginning at very small 52,000 cubic feet and ranging up to more than 500,000 cubic feet. Our balloons are 90,000 and 118,000 cubic feet, standard two- and four-passenger sizes for most hot air balloons. Every passenger has a 360-degree view.
The balloons inflate to six stories tall in approximately 15-20 minutes. Passengers are often thrilled with the spectacle of the balloon’s inflation and are encouraged to participate with the ground crew to get a true hands-on experience.
How Many Passengers Can Fly at One Time?
Our smaller balloon carries two adult passengers plus the FAA certified pilot. The larger balloon carries up to four adult passengers plus the pilot. If you have a group bigger than four, we can easily accommodate you by working together with other area pilots.
Private, two-passenger flights, or “Sweetheart Flights,” are also available for an additional charge.
See Pricing page.
Is It Cold in the Balloon?
Technically, the temperature decreases by three degrees Fahrenheit every 1,000 feet of altitude, but usually there is a small temperature inversion (a warm-up) occurring as we fly. The balloon’s burners will also give off some heat. This means if you are dressed comfortably for the temperature at ground level you will be comfortable during the flight.
Passengers usually dress casually and layer clothing if the weather is chilly. We suggest you bring a hat and sunglasses, and wear sneakers or hiking boots. Open-toed shoes are strongly discouraged.
What Weather Conditions Do You Fly In?
The decision to fly is made exclusively by your pilot. Generally, we will not launch with surface winds in excess of seven miles per hour. We also will not fly in any unstable weather conditions such as rain showers in the area, fog, or cloud ceilings below 500 feet per FAA regulations. Temperature is not a factor in hot air ballooning.
What If the Weather is Bad on the Morning of My Flight?
If the weather does not cooperate and we are forced to cancel the flight, we will reschedule your flight at your convenience based on availability. No deposit is required to secure your reservation, which means there is no refund to be given if we must cancel. We will simply try to reschedule your flight.
What is Included in the Breakfast, and When is It Served?
You will have a choice of a beverage plus a variety of breakfast, brunch, or lunch entrees all served by Bob Evan’s Restaurant immediately following your hot air balloon flight. If your schedule does not allow time to eat breakfast after the flight, you are welcome to keep the complimentary gift card and use it at another time that is convenient for you.
How Long Has Big Red Balloon Been in Business?
Big Red Balloon Sightseeing Adventures has served the Tampa Bay area continuously since 1992. We are the oldest and only full-time hot air balloon ride operator in West Central Florida, which means we fly more passengers than any other hot air balloon company in the Tampa Bay area.
Why Should I Choose Big Red Balloon Instead of Another Company?
Our lead pilot and owner of Big Red Balloon has over 3,000 hours of flight experience, and our ground crew has served with us for over ten years. We have an excellent community reputation and an excellent safety record. We place a high value on our business ethics, professionalism, and integrity, and we will go out of our way to ensure you have an incredible hot air balloon experience.
Are the Pilots Certified?
All pilots are FAA licensed and certified with a Commercial Rating for Lighter-Than-Air, Free Balloon with airborne heater. Licensing and testing are conducted through the FAA and is exactly the same as any commercial pilot including airline pilots.
How Does the Ground Crew Know Where the Balloon is Going?
The ground crew remains in radio contact with the pilot at all times and follows the balloon while you are in flight. Our crew is very knowledgeable of our flying area and well trained in retrieving the balloon.
Is Historic Information Available?
At the conclusion of your hot air balloon flight, the pilot gives a brief history of ballooning as part of the traditional champagne toast. Our highly experienced crewmembers are also well informed about the sport of ballooning and always available to answer questions.
Can We Bring Cameras?
Passengers are more than welcome to bring cameras or any kind of recording equipment on the flight. Big Red Balloon does not accept responsibility for personal belongings lost or damaged at any time.
Where is the Nearest Hotel to the Meeting Place?
Big Red Balloon flights are a sunrise-only event in west-central Florida. If our passengers will be traveling a long distance to meet us, or if they just want to give their experience that extra special touch, we suggest making reservations the night before your flight at one of the many hotels located near the Busch Gardens/University of South Florida area.