Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
For us, flying in a hot air balloon is part of daily life but for most of our passengers it will be the first time. We’ve done our best to answer your most frequently asked questions below. If your question isn’t there, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you via phone, email or our live chat.
Bookings, vouchers and packages:
- How much does a Floating Images balloon flight cost?
- Prices change depending on whether you want a standard flight or a special package. Please take a look at our Prices & Packages page for up-to-date information.
- Is there a minimum height for children?
- Children aged from 6-12 are welcome as long as an adult accompanies them. For safety reasons, the child must be tall enough to see over the edge of the basket (1.2m high) unaided by any person or objects. Adult prices apply from 13 upwards.
- How far in advance do I need to book?
- As we are a boutique ballooning experience and spaces are limited, we recommended booking in advance, especially if you have a special date or occasion in mind. If you would like to fly on a weekend or have a large group we recommend booking at least two weeks in advance. If you have a date in mind it makes sense to book early!
- Group discounts?
- For groups of 4-6 people we offer 5% off. For 7-10 people we offer 10% off. Please call us to book. If your group is larger than 10, please contact us on (07) 3294 8770.
- Need accommodation?
- Of course. Ipswich has plenty of accommodation options. Find out more about where to stay here.
- Can I purchase an undated gift certificate and how long is it valid for?
- Yes, our undated gift certificates are valid for 12 months and are transferable but not refundable. You can find out more and purchase a gift voucher here.
- Can extra people join for breakfast?
- Yes, the cost is $25 per adult and $15 per child. If the flight is cancelled due to unsuitable weather conditions, the breakfast will not take place. You can book the breakfast by calling Ph. +61 7 3294 8770 or emailing us.
- Why is your booking fee or Credit Card Service Charge non–refundable?
- We’re not usually able to refund your booking fee in any circumstances, even if an flight is cancelled. This is because we have already paid the credit card charges incurred by processing your original order and these charges are non-refundable.
Where we fly:
- Why do we fly in this region?
- The geography and climate of the Ipswich, Scenic Rim and Somerset regions is ideal for ballooning, plus they provide fantastic and glorious views of this diverse area.
- What will you see?
- From the air, the heritage city of Ipswich (with its cute Queenslander homes and historic civic buildings) quickly melts away to a patchwork field of farmland, wineries and homesteads, plus rich outback areas with acres of cattle, lakes and dams. All of this is set against the spectacular backdrop of the Great Dividing Range mountains. Your bird’s-eye view of the landscape grants you breathtaking vistas of the Greater Brisbane region including Ipswich, Flinders Peak, Mt. Walker, the Great Dividing and McPherson ranges and Mt. Tamborine. Keep looking and you’ll see Moreton Bay, the skyline of Brisbane, Mount Coot-tha, the D’Aguilar Range, Wivenhoe Dam, the Brisbane, Fassifern and Lockyer valleys and the Brisbane and Bremer Rivers.
Your flight day, weather checks and what to bring:
- What time and where do we meet?
- We always meet 45 minutes before sunrise. When your booking date is confirmed, we will give you a precise time with your flight confirmation details. We meet at the front of the Ipswich Country Motel. There is free car parking at the motel.
- How do I know if my flight is going ahead?
- Hot air ballooning is weather dependent and all passengers are asked to check in with Floating Images via phone the night before the flight from 7-7.30pm for a weather report.
- What do I do if my flight is cancelled?
- If we cancel the flight, you can either reschedule for another day or have a refund. If you cancel the flight at short notice, a fee may apply. Cancellation conditions can be found on our website under Terms and Conditions. Third party booking agents may have different refund Terms and Conditions.
- How long does it all take?
- You can expect to be with us for about 3-4 hours. The complete balloon program includes the passenger meet and greet, balloon inflation, flight, landing, deflation, return transportation and restaurant breakfast. If you book Brisbane transfers with us, our time together will be longer.
- How long is the flight time?
- We float through the air for about an hour – the longest flight time for a balloon in the South East Queensland region.
- What should I wear and bring?
- The early mornings can start cool and warm up quickly – so we recommend wearing comfortable layers. It’s dark when we set off, so don’t forget sunglasses and a hat, plus wear sturdy and enclosed shoes suitable for morning dew or long grass (no sandals, open-toe shoes or high heels permitted). White clothing is not recommended – it gets dirty! Dress as though you are going for a morning bushwalk. Most importantly, don’t forget to charge and bring your camera!
Weather and flying in a balloon
- What happens on the morning?
- We meet at the confirmed time (about 45 minutes before sunrise) at the motel car park. Owner and Chief pilot Graeme and his crew will say hello, take you to our vehicle and we’ll drive to the day’s launch site (determined by weather patterns). It takes about 20-30 minutes to set up the balloon, and you are invited to assist the crew with the inflation. During the 1-hour flight the ground crew follows the balloon from the ground and meets you at the balloon landing site. After we land and pack up the balloon, we drive back to the hotel where breakfast is waiting.
- Where do we take off?
- The pilot chooses the take-off site according to the direction and speed of the wind that morning. Safety is always our priority. Our closest take-off site is a 3-minute drive from our meeting point, and the furthest is about 15 minutes away.
- Why do we have to get up so early in the morning?
- Like baking the perfect croissant, flying a hot air balloon calls for certain conditions. We need some wind to fly the balloon, but we can’t fly if there is too much wind. Balloons need cool, stable, gentle winds to operate most effectively and we fly early in the morning as the winds are at their calmest. The morning air is tranquil, and a lower ambient temperature means that it is easier to get the balloon off the ground. We also don’t need to heat it to such a high temperature, which means we use less gas and can fly longer. The spectacular South East Queensland sunrise is just a bonus, really.
- Why is there only one flight per day?
- The first 2-3 hours after sunrise are the most stable conditions for ballooning. Hot air balloons float with the wind speed and direction. The pilot can only control the altitude of the balloon by heating the inside with burners.
- How many passengers are there in the basket?
- We have baskets for 4-6 or 10 passengers. The basket we fly depends on passenger numbers that day.
- Can we sit down in the basket during the flight?
- No, all passengers are required to stand or lean for the duration of the flight. As the flight lasts about one hour, passengers must be able to stand unaided for the duration of the flight. To clarify, no additional aids such as seats, walkers, sticks or crutches are permitted in the basket. If in doubt, a friend or relative must accompany the passenger to assist them.
- How long does it take to set up a balloon?
- It usually takes the pilot and crew about 20-30 minutes to get a standard tear-shape balloon ready for flight. Passenger participation and assistance is always welcomed and can help us get in the air faster! You can help unload the wicker basket and balloon envelope from the trailer, assist in the unpacking of the envelope from the bag, lay the balloon out, and hold the mouth of the envelope whilst the fans inflate it. Larger and special-shaped balloons can take up to an hour to ready for flight.
- How cold is it up there?
- You must be very high before the air becomes cold – where we fly it is no colder than it is on the ground. In fact, standing under the very powerful balloon burners is like being next to a giant campfire and can be quite toasty and warm in the basket. Hot air balloons fly with the wind, so there is no wind chill factor either.
- Which season has the best weather for flying?
- We love beautiful South East Queensland for so many reasons – but the biggest reason is definitely the incredible weather. Thanks to the awesome weather we can generally operate flights year-round.
- Why are flights sometimes cancelled in good weather conditions?
- The wind. The strength of the wind may not be the same on the ground as higher up. We are legally obliged to cancel flights when the wind is more than 20 km/h on the ground for safety reasons.
- How high do we fly?
- On an average flight we go from treetop level up to 1000-3000 feet. The advantage of flying a balloon, as opposed to other types of aircraft, is its diverse ability to skim over rivers, brush over treetops and reach more than 1000 feet while providing those panoramic landscape views! How high we fly depends on the wind patterns of the day. At different heights there are different wind layers, and these layers have different speeds and directions.
- But I don’t like heights!
- Flying in a high-sided balloon basket is not like standing on the balcony of a high rise. In a balloon you don’t get that vertigo feeling – it is more as if the landscape is unfolding beneath you. The basket does not rock or sway because we move with the wind.
- Will I be airsick?
- No. There is no feeling of dizziness or vertigo because there is no physical link between the balloon and the ground (like a ladder or a bridge). During the flight the basket remains stable and there is a feeling of incredible ease whilst taking-off.
- Can I fly if I have a medical condition?
- If you have a medical condition that you feel may cause some concern (such as a heart condition) and you are planning to fly, it is best to check with your doctor. When booking, please advise us if anyone in your group has medical issues. All passengers are required to sign a medical waiver before flying.
- Disabled passengers
- Disabled passengers are able to balloon, although the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA) regulations create limitations. CASA requires that all passengers are able to embark and disembark a balloon basket unassisted for safety reasons. Unfortunately our wicker basket has no door – only in-built steps to climb in or out. Disabled persons participating in the balloon flight do so at their own risk.
- Heavier than 90 kilograms
- To fly we require the names and estimated weights (in kilograms) of all passengers. Weight is an important factor in hot air ballooning, and all passengers weighing more than 90kg especially need to advise us when booking. Any passengers weighing 115kg or more may attract a 50% surcharge and unfortunately due to CASA restrictions passengers heavier than 130kg can not participate in hot air ballooning.
- Pregnant passengers
- Regrettably, under CASA regulations and Floating Images’ policy we cannot fly pregnant women. Floating Images will still be around after the birth of the bub, so we look forward to having you experience ballooning with us then.
- Scuba divers
- Those passengers diving the day or night before a flight should check with a qualified dive master regarding their ballooning journey. We do not fly above 4,500 feet and most flights are around 2,500 feet. Passengers diving the day or night before travel who participate in ballooning do so at their own risk.
Hot air balloon facts
How is a balloon inflated?
We begin by laying the basket on its side, then laying out the balloon envelope (the fabric) and attaching it by cables to the basket. We then inflate the balloon with cold air using a portable petrol-powered fan. When the envelope is almost completely inflated with cold air, we start to heat the balloon with the burners to heat the air inside the balloon. This will make the balloon begin to rise. With further heating, there is sufficient lift for the balloon to float upwards.
How does a balloon fly?
Hot air balloons fly because hot air rises. Hot air rises because it is less dense than the cooler air around it and so it tends to ‘float’ on the cooler air. We use a burner to heat the air in the balloon until it is hotter than the air outside the balloon, causing it to rise. If we were to allow the balloon to cool, it would begin to descend as it becomes the same temperature as the external air. If we were to let some of the hot air out of the balloon the same thing would happen because there would no longer be enough hot air in the balloon to lift us.
How do you steer the balloon?
Balloons can’t be steered left or right like a car. The direction a balloon flies depends entirely on which way the wind is blowing. Winds blow in different directions at different altitudes, so the pilot can steer the balloon by ascending or descending and finding a wind that will take the balloon in the right direction. The pilot changes the balloon’s altitude by using the burner to control the internal temperature of the envelope. Each flight is unique – it is always the wind that decides the journey.
How fast does a balloon go?
Since the balloon has no forward propulsion system, its speed is determined entirely by the speed of the wind.
What are balloons made of?
Most hot air balloons are made from a lightweight ripstop nylon or polyester fabric much like parachute fabric. Balloon fabric is coated on the inside with polyurethane or silicone to help prevent the air leaking through. The first three panels of the balloon are made of Nomex, which is extremely fire retardant. All material used is very lightweight and strong.
Why are most balloons shaped like a teardrop?
The shape of a typical hot air balloon is derived from a set of mathematical equations used to reduce the stress on the fabric. The resulting shape, sometimes referred to as the natural shape, minimises the horizontal stress on the fabric. Vertical stresses are carried by webbing tapes, which run from the top to the bottom of the balloon. Design software can now engineer balloons in almost any shape.Why do you still use wicker for the baskets?Because it looks super cute! Well, that’s true but not the main reason – wicker is actually lightweight, flexible and very strong. Looking great is a bonus.
What fuel does a balloon use?
Hot air balloons use Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) for fuel – the same fuel you might use in your gas barbecue. This is usually a mixture of propane, butane and some other gases.
How long does a balloon last?
A hot air balloon envelope will usually last for 500-600 flying hours, depending on how regularly it is flown and how well it is maintained. Balloons deteriorate rapidly if they are packed up wet or if they aren’t aired regularly. Commercial pilots fly 150-200 hours per year so their balloons tend to last about three years.
How much does the balloon cost?
The cost of a balloon varies depending on the size, averaging from $70,000 to $120,000 per balloon. A specially shaped balloon costs much more, usually $150,000+.
How big is a balloon?
There are different balloon sizes, from small one-person balloons to very large ones that can carry 20 people or more. In our fleet, we currently have an 11-passenger carrier and a 4-passenger carrier.
Do you need a license to fly a balloon?
Yes, our pilots must have Australian Commercial Balloon licenses. We are just like any other aviation charter business and the same rules and regulations apply.
Who controls balloons’ and balloonists’ safety?
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) controls ballooning in Australia and the rules are very strict. All pilots are licensed by CASA and must have regular medicals and flights checks just like 747 captains. The balloons are inspected every 100 hours or 12 months, just like any aircraft, to ensure they are airworthy.
Where are the sandbags?
We do not need sandbags. If we want to go higher we just heat the air in the balloon. If we want to go down we let the balloon cool or let the hot air out. Gas balloons filled with either helium or hydrogen use sandbags.