"What goes up, must come down" ...Sir Isaac Newton
You've had a great flight but its time to descend back to Earth. You will start hearing the pilot increase communications with his ground crew in preparation; identifying potential landing locations, surface wind conditions, possible ground-based obstacles, and potentially, providing crew directions to target landing location.
It is important that you, as the passenger, listen carefully to the pilot instructions for landing. He will go through a number of items such as:
- Bend your knees - don't stand with knees locked
- Hold on to rope handles inside of the basket
- Prepare for high-wind landing, if applicable. This will include specific information.
- Most importantly, stay INSIDE of the basket after landing.
Pilots target primarily public property for landings - school, parks, etc... But, they will not hesitate to land in a subdivision (as picture below) or a private yard with some beautiful, freshly cut grass.
That's right - if you land on private land, you will be trespassing until permission has been granted by land owner. Hopefully, the crew chief can be a the landing location ahead of time so that permission can be obtained following a knock on the door. Experience has shown that out of 100 landings, 99 of the landowners will grant access to their property. However, there is that one (1) owner that may not want the balloon there. Stay in the basket as, in this case, the pilot will need to take back off and land in the neighbor's yard. This also applies to family members that may also be "chasing" the balloon in another vehicle. They are not to drive out on to private land without explicit permission from land owner.
Depending on your landing location, you may stir up quite the crowd of people. Many of these people have never been around a balloon before this time, only seeing them from afar. They are curious, they are interested - they are jealous!
The last 15 years have taught me that majority of the public has never been exposed to hot air balloons and don't quite understand how they work. I say this because at least once or twice a year, we get a little surprise at or during landing.
Because the general public doesn't have the experience, they simply react to a situation they may deem as an emergency. The see a hot air balloon flying low to the ground and they see fire. The immediate response elicits a call to 9-1-1 emergency services. It will start with sirens that get a bit louder as the balloon continues to fly, trying to locate exactly where this emergency is. Once landed, the scene will end up something like the picture shown here. The pilot and crew will talk to emergency responders to assure that there is no emergency, describe the perfect landing that was just performed, and thank the responders for their service. At this point, they will either start asking questions about the flight, how the balloon works (WIN!) or simply shrug their shoulders, shake their heads, and head back to the station. If we're lucky, they will even stick around to help pack up!