You've been waiting for a new "thinking about" thread, well here it is! Ok you weren't waiting for it, but here it is anyway. Laurie and I have been thinking about getting a hot air balloon. Really we've been curious about it for a few months, and going to the balloon fiesta in Albuquerque had us more interested. She's taking the lead with this one and is really into it. I am, too. While I normally am one for varying levels of more controlled flight, I've always found balloons intriguing. Especially flying the MU-2 in such a highly controlled, IFR, high up environment (and for Laurie in the Challenger she's literally flying twice as high) ballooning will offer a nice balance to that. After seeing the balloon fiesta in ABQ we found ourselves thinking this would be a good idea. From what we can tell so far ballooning is a world that's got a lot of differences from powered flight. For one, there's now CFI-LTA, if you have your commercial LTA then you can instruct. It's a very small community and DPEs are few. One thing that's different is the norms with purchase of the aircraft. In the fixed wing or rotor wing world, we generally tell people not to buy an airplane first - first just learn in a rental and then figure out what you want. Not so in ballooning! There are very few balloons nationwide you can rent for instruction. Part of the reason for this is that for $10k you can get into a used balloon that's a reasonable first balloon. But also few people want to do the insurance for instructing in their balloons - sort of like twins. Albuquerque does have balloon pilot mills, but the hourly rates are surprisingly high. When you start to look at the costs, a balloon to train in makes sense. By the time you look at the costs of renting, hotel, etc. to travel someplace to do the rating (not to mention how many times you may have to do it if the weather doesn't cooperate), you can basically buy a balloon and set it on fire after your rating and break even. So we've started looking at different brands (Mitsubishi doesn't make balloons, which makes it harder to find the best manufacturer out there) and started to work on understanding what sort of balloon we want in terms of size, capability, and the like. We've figured that a 77,000 cubic foot balloon is about what we want. Normally I want bigger and more capacity, but in the case of a balloon, much above 77k cuft means that it would be something that truly requires a crew beyond Laurie and me. While having helpers is a good thing, we really want to aim for a setup that we can crew ourselves. This still provides a large enough basket for one of us and a passenger (whether we're flying together or bringing along an instructor or friend), and potentially a second passenger depending on weight and conditions. We've started reading through the FAA's Balloon Flying Handbook. It's been a while since I've been studying towards any new rating, and I find some of the things in this quite humorous. Some almost literal quotes (I'm going from memory here) include: - "If passengers are planned for the flight, refreshments should be provided." - "One of the challenges of cold weather operations is keeping warm." - "Flying in rain should be avoided, as the balloon will get wet." Laurie and I have been cracking up reading some of it, but there is also some good information in there, especially for either people starting off with LTA as an initial rating or someone who's not used to flying other than in an IFR environment (like us).