Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How Far Ahead Should I Call to Choose a Date?

A. Call soon! While on isolated occasions we have immediate availability, plan to schedule your trip 3 to 4 weeks in advance. Weekend flights fill up fast, with the best availability on weekday mornings.

Q. What is expected of me?

A. #1 Rule of Ballooning: Patience


Due to the nature of ballooning, flights will not always go off as schedule. For your safety, we ask for your patience as we try to accommodate your flight. As mother nature does not always run on our schedule, flights can and will be canceled due to weather related risks. You may need to schedule and reschedule several times before your flight. With limited flying days in a season, we ask for flexibility in your schedule in the event we need to reschedule. Morning flights launch more frequently than evening flights, and weekday morning flights are most easily available to schedule.


Read the following information to prepare yourself for possible weather and scheduling issues. We promise to do our best to accommodate your flight as soon as possible, but your safety is the utmost importance. When the weather dictates, choose an alternate date as soon as possible..

Q. When is the best time to fly?

A. We highly recommend sunrise flight to our passengers for the following reasons:


1) Sunrise flights have a lower risk of weather related cancellations. Mornings have calmer and more predictable weather as winds tend to pick up in the afternoon and continue after dark. Mornings also tend to be cooler, and come with less risk of heat related cancellations. It’s dangerous to fly in temperatures over 90 degrees, and we’ll cancel our evening flights if the temperature hits 90 in the afternoon.


2) Passengers can enjoy longer flights without worrying about getting dark.


3) Fewer Mosquitoes


We fly seven days a week, weather permitted and as long as we meet passenger and weight minimums.

Q. What Time Should I be there?

A. Sunset and sunrise vary from day-to-day throughout the year. Once you have scheduled your flight, we can provide a more accurate time frame. We typically meet at least one hour before sunrise or two hours before sunset depending on your flight.

Q. How Should I Dress?

A. Dress casually, but do not wear shorts or sandals. Jeans, tennis shoes, and casual shirts make for appropriate ballooning attire. Bring a baseball cap or other similar headwear if needed. Dress for the weather, since the balloon’s temperature will be close to the temperature on the ground.

Q. How long will I be there and what will be happening?

A. Please plan to share approximately 3 hours with us. Each trip begins with a pre-flight briefing where the pilot explains the flight and answers your questions. We provide transportation to and from the launch site. At the launch site, you watch the inflation process. You will spend approximately one hour in flight, but the exact length of your airtime varies with the availability of landing sites and weather conditions. Your trip closes with a complimentary champagne toast!

Q. From where will my balloon be launched?

A. We have many sites to choose from based on site availability and view downwind. For your safety, your pilot makes the final decision based on a weather briefing just prior to your departure to the launch site.

Q. Can I bring my own camera?

A. Yes, definitely bring a camera or small camcorder aboard, but at your own risk. Use a neck or wrist strap to avoid dropping. Many people run out of film or camera space, so make sure to bring extra!

Q. How many people will be in my balloon?

A. We determine balloon size by the balloon on schedule for your date, the total weight of passengers, and the temperature outdoors. We keep couples and groups together in the same balloon, and usually have 8 to 12 people per flight.

Q. How Much Does the Weather Affect My Flight?

A. 100%. For sunrise flights, our staff evaluates the weather and notifies you if the forecast is suitable for safe flying. Please note: rescheduling due to non-ballooning weather is typical. Regretfully, we cannot control the weather, but only the safety margin with which we fly. Please contact our office at your earliest convenience to reschedule a cancelled flight.

Q. How Flyable is it?

A. A basic knowledge of meteorology and a review of the FAA Flight Services official weather forecast serve most balloonists. Since our balloonport operations have decades of experience, we use our expertise to select the best local launch sites based on wind direction, speed, and scenery. Our Chief Pilots may launch helium filled balloons into the air to determine wind velocity and direction. Surface winds 5-7 mph or less provide the best ballooning, depending on their direction. Thunderstorms and precipitation also result in non-flyable weather (for obvious reasons). Visibility, cloud ceiling, dew point, winds at 3000, 6000 and 9000 feet, temperature, radar charts and satellite information all factor in our decision process.

Q. Why is Wind Speed & Direction so Important?

A. Approximately 3-6 hours prior to departure we keep regular contact with FAA Flight Services for the latest weather forecast. We examine radar and satellite loops and test local surface wind speeds. We make the "go"/"no-go" decision to fly 2-3 hours before departure in most cases.

Q. What is Our Procedure to determine if the Flight is on?

A. 100%. For sunrise flights, our staff evaluates the weather and notifies you if the forecast is suitable for safe flying. Please note: rescheduling due to non-ballooning weather is typical. Regretfully, we cannot control the weather, but only the safety margin with which we fly. Please contact our office at your earliest convenience to reschedule a cancelled flight.

Q. What Are the Basic Weather Rules of Thumb?

A. We constantly expand our knowledge of what weather patterns generate the best rides. The following information encompasses a small portion of our current thinking: within a high pressure system, flying conditions are generally more favorable than low pressure areas, because there are fewer clouds, better visibility, calm or light winds, and less turbulence. High cirrus clouds indicate changing weather. Usually this signals an approaching warm front probably 200 miles or 10 hours behind. Cumulonimbus clouds towering into the sky indicate very turbulent conditions and should be avoided. Nimbostratus is a heavy cloud moving slowly along. Rain can be safely predicted and it is best to avoid flying in wet and miserable conditions.

Your safety is our primary concern at A Great American Balloon company, and your safety depends largely on the weather.


Often people will say, “It is a beautiful day why aren’t we flying?” We use the following criterion to determine whether or not we go up:


We use NOAA Aviation weather. We’ll call the passengers to the launch site if all surrounding locations to the balloon port report surface winds of less than 5 mph, no fronts, no storms, no rain, and no jet streams in the area within 100 miles. Additionally,the winds at 3000 feet must be less than 17mph.


If the above criteria are met, then we will call the passengers to the launch site. Passengers MUST meet at the designated location ON TIME. Ballooning is time sensitive, and we must be in the air by a certain time to insure a successful flight. We determine flight time by sunrise and sunset, and can’t make exceptions for personal schedules or traffic problems. If the weather changes before the flight, we will try to notify the passengers before travel to the designated location.


We will list the designated location for the flight will be on the recording you must call after 7:30 pm for a morning flight and after 1:30 pm for an evening flight. Just because we call you to the location, does not mean we are flying.. Yes, the forecast is only a prediction so we must check the weather on site.


Some of the ways we’ll check the weather on site:


1) Watch the tops of trees, wind on lakes, flags, and listen to sounds to see if there are wind distortions.

2) Inflate and let a helium balloon go up to see how fast and consistent it tracks.


We have been flying for many years and our experience goes a long way. Even if we see other balloons fly it does not mean we are flying. Repeat...Even if we see other balloons fly it does not mean we are flying. In ballooning there are pilots that will try to fly in any conditions for sport. We have seen them come and have seen them go down (i.e. crash). Many of these pilots do not have the experience to fly a commercial flight safely. If you would like to fly with one of these pilots please let us know and we can try to make arrangements for you.

Q. Why are Flights Cancelled?

A. We fly morning and evening every day of our flight season. We only cancel if flight conditions are unsafe or passenger/weight minimums are unmet.

Q. Are There any Special Health or Physical Restrictions?

A. If a passenger stand for at least an hour, listen to and follow directions from the pilot, and will not have issues with the heat and noise of the balloon burner, they should be good to fly.


YOU SHOULD NOT TAKE A BALLOON FLIGHT IF YOU

-Have instructions not to from a medical professional

-Are Pregnant...Or just a little pregnant

-Have had a recent surgery

-Have Back or knee problems

-Need surgery

-Need a nurse with you for the flight

-Can’t get in the balloon (the balloon has a 4ft. tall sides with only one step to get in) or in or out of the van

-Have other medical issues that would prevent you from being safe in a balloon

-Are afraid of the outdoors

-Hate mosquitoes

-Are afraid of heights

-You can’t reschedule

-Need to fly on special date, i.e. anniversary, wedding, birthday (we can’t guarantee a flight will go up on that date due to weather)

-Are over the weight of 225 lbs due to aircraft weight restrictions


Please call and discuss your individual situation with a member of our staff for any other concerns you might have.

Q. Can Other People Come to Watch?

A. Your friends and family are welcome to watch you take off on your flight! They must provide their own transportation, closely supervise their children, and arrive on time. Please instruct them to meet us at the same time and location you are given. We do not have anyone to greet late arrivals, and you will not have time to phone.

Q. What if I Need to Change My Reservation?

A. Changing the day of your flight requires 72 hours notification.

Q. What is Your Refund Policy?

A. Gift Certificates and flight tickets are not refundable, but are transferable. Please contact our reservation desk for transfer procedures.

Q. What is the Expiration Policy?

A. All gift certificates and flight tickets expire 18 months from the date of issuance. If weather conditions prohibit flying, we will work to reschedule before your ticket expires.

a great american balloon company chicago a great american balloon company rides a great american balloon company joliet