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Ballooning in Switzerland
What is ballooning?... what to know about balloons?... and more...
.... a sport that very much depends on the weather. Especially here in Switzerland, where the weather sometimes changes quickly.
How many balloons are there ?
In Switzerland you find allmost 500 balloons and just as many pilots. The number of gas balloons is slowly decreasing and is now at less then 50 units. The number of hot-air balloons is standing at around 450 balloons.
How big are balloons ?
The smallest hot air balloon has a volume of about 900 m3. These balloons are just large enough to carry the pilot with one gastank and a small burner mounted on top. This tank is carried like a backpack and there is no basket supporting the pilot.
The largest hot air balloon in Switzerland can lift the pilot and 21 passengers. It has a volume of 10.500 m3. But this size is rather seldom. Usual the balloons have a size between 3.000 and 4.000 m3 and carry 3 - 5 passengers.
How much does a hot air balloon cost ?
The purchasing cost of a hot-air balloon is one of the reasons, why so many balloons carry the message of a sponsor on their envelope. Other costly factors are the insurance and the maintenance of the system. The average cost of a complete new hot-air balloon with an average size of 3.000 m3 is allmost Fr. 100.000.- . On top of this there are the annual fees of a few hundred and the annual insurance of a few thousand Swiss Franks. But it doesn't end here. The lifetime of an envelope is only about 500 hours. Although the balloon still looks good after this time the strength of the fabric has lost about 50% since new. It holds 24 kg per cm2 when new. As soon as it falls below 12 kg per cm2 the BAZL ( Bundesamt für zivile Luftfahrt ) will not accept the balloon as airworthy and it must be replaced. This is the time when a pilot must decide whether to have the old envelope partly replaced for about Fr. 15.000.- and then still has an old balloon, or to spend Fr. 30 - 50.000.- on a new envelope.
Can I become a balloon pilot ?
If you are of good health, physically fit and willing to attend school again then you have taken the first step. If your bank account has a positive balance of Fr. 15.000.- then you have taken the second step. All you have to do now is find a teacher. There the SBAV ( Swiss Balloon Federation ) can help find you one in your region. Write to: SBAV, Postfach 16, CH 4124 Schönenbuch/Basel
Who can become a passenger in a balloon ?
Everyone aged between about 12 and 100 years, who feels physically fit and is not nervous of climbing into a sort of oversized laundry basket. If you have a physical handicap please ask your doctor, and inform your pilot.
What should passengers look out for ?
If you search on the web you will find hundreds of nice pages from balloon pilots offering their services. But beware! Most of them (more than 90%) have no licence from the Swiss BAZL (Swiss aviation authority) to fly passengers commercially. Check out the list here to be sure!
Do not be afraid to ask additional questions. In any case the price of the flight should not be the first criterion. Allso consider the following: