How Do Hot Air Balloons Land? (Beginners Guide)

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Hot air balloons are majestic aircraft that drift across the sky. Landing a hot air balloon requires careful planning and coordination between the pilot and crew.

The pilot will aim for ample open space with minimal obstacles and begin to release hot air from the envelope (the balloon-shaped part) to descend. Passengers should hold onto hand grips and stow away objects, closely listening to the pilot’s instructions. But what’s it like being in a hot air balloon as it’s landing?

What Is a Hot Air Balloon Landing Like?

Hot air balloon landings can be a thrilling experience, although they are pretty different from plane landings. If you have never been in a hot air balloon, you are in for a shock. Some things you should expect during a balloon landing are:

  • The pilot will typically look for an excellent place to land around 20 minutes before reaching the ground. This gives the pilot enough time to find an appropriate landing spot while considering any wind direction or speed changes.
  •  As the balloon gets closer to the ground, the pilot cools it down to descend quicker.
  • Once the basket touches down, it will likely bounce once or twice before finally resting on its side. This is normal and should not cause concern. Follow your pilot’s instructions before, during, and after the landing.
  • The pilot will then turn off all burners, deflate the balloon, and pack everything.

Are Hot Air Balloon Landings Hard?

Pilots aim to land on flat, obstacle-free ground for a smoother landing with minimal bumps. However, if the wind picks up, changes direction or the terrain is unexpectedly bumpy, this may not be possible. In this case, the basket may bounce off the ground several times before coming to a stop.

How Hot Air Balloons Land

Landing a hot air balloon can be tricky, requiring careful coordination between wind speed, direction, and altitude. The best place to start is where hot air balloons are allowed to land.

Hot air balloons can only land in open areas without obstacles, such as buildings or trees. The pilot must identify an appropriate landing spot before initiating the landing process.

The ideal landing spot should have minimal wind and be large enough to accommodate the balloon’s size. Once a suitable landing spot has been found, the pilot will start descending by releasing hot air from the balloon’s envelope using the burner. This dramatically reduces the lifting force of the balloon, allowing it to fall toward the ground gradually.

As they approach ground level, pilots usually perform a “touch-and-go” maneuver wherein they apply a reversing thrust using their burners while quickly releasing some ballast (usually sandbags) to briefly slow down their descent speed before rising again.

This helps them get a better sense of wind direction and adjust their position for a more precise touchdown. When everything is set for a touchdown, pilots guide their balloons down gently onto their designated landing spot while maintaining minimal horizontal movement with respect to ground level.

As soon as they touch down safely on solid ground without any issues or damages, passengers are instructed to stay put until they receive further instructions from their pilot on how best to exit safely from the basket.

How Do You Go Down in a Hot Air Balloon?

Hot Air Balloons have two primary ways of descending, adjusting the intensity of the burners or operating the parachute valve. Lowering the burners allows the hot air inside the balloon to cool off, allowing the balloon to descend gradually.

The parachute valve on top of the balloon lets the pilot release the hot air trapped inside the balloon. Giving them the option to gradually or drastically lower the balloon altitude.

Can You Control Where a Hot Air Balloon Lands?

Hot air balloon pilots use the varying wind speeds and directions found at different altitudes to control where the balloon flys and lands. This is done similarly to surfing since hot air balloons don’t have traditional steering wheels or rudders.

How Long Does It Take To Land A Hot Air Balloon?

Depending on various factors, hot air balloon landings can take a few minutes to over an hour. The most common factors affecting the landing time of a hot air balloon are:

Wind speed and direction: Pilots can often descend and land within just a few minutes when winds are favorable. However, if the winds are unfavorable or change rapidly, it can take longer for the pilot to navigate to a safe landing spot.

Size and weight of the hot air balloon: Larger balloons with more passengers require more time to land safely than smaller balloons. The reason is the additional size, weight, and passengers need a more prominent landing spot.

Weather conditions: Rain, fog, and other adverse weather conditions can make it difficult for pilots to see their surroundings and safely navigate toward a landing spot. In some cases, pilots may need to wait out bad weather before attempting a landing.

How Do You Get Out Of The Hot Air Balloon Basket?

Once the hot air balloon has safely landed, the next step is to exit the basket. It’s best to wait for your pilot’s instructions and follow them carefully. As an additional step, we recommend looking around for obstacles that could obstruct your exit from the basket. Do not hesitate to ask for help.

What Happens If a Hot Air Balloon Lands in Your Yard?

Watching a hot air balloon land in your yard can be quite the experience, in a confusing and unnerving kind of way. If you find yourself in this unlikely situation, we recommend the following:

  • Talk to the pilot or crew
  • They will explain what happened and take notes
  • Work with them on retrieving the balloon
  • Log any damages caused by the balloon; the ballooning company should cover it

Pilots avoid residential areas whenever possible, so they likely had an emergency that required them to land in your yard.


Hot air balloon landings are a thrilling and unique experience that requires skilled pilots to execute safely. Despite the lack of steerage, hot air balloons can be landed precisely through careful control of altitude and speed.

Although the landing process can be unpredictable due to wind conditions, pilots undergo extensive training to handle any situation that may arise during descent. The experience of landing in a hot air balloon is unforgettable, as passengers are treated to an aerial view of their surroundings before gently touching down on the ground.
While some may find landings nerve-wracking, the safety measures taken by pilots and crew ensure that passengers have a safe yet enjoyable ride. Don’t hesitate to book your flight today for those interested in riding in a hot air balloon!