Ballons launch at sunrise,
when they cast deep
Hot air balloons in Turkey are
licensed, regulated aircraft. Pilots must
meet certain standards of training, experience, age and health to be licensed. Hot
air balloon companies must carry insurance coverage.
In Turkey, the Ministry of Transportation,
Directorate-General of Civil Aviation,
is the licensing authority for hot
air ballooning companies, just as it
is for airlines.
Safe Flying Conditions
In recent years the Directorate-General has increased the level of safety regulation. Unlike in the past, when each balloon company decided whether atmospheric conditions were suitable for safe flight, the General-Directorate now decides this and all companies must comply.
Safe, but There's Still Risk
Of course, every balloon company
wants to operate safely.
No one wants an accident or injury.
However, the system is not perfect.
I receive reports of occasional accidents,
of pilots' licenses not being renewed
(but the pilots' flying anyway), of
lapsing or being revoked and not being
renewed, of pilot error, of equipment
In other words, safe as it
is, with thousands of flights being
completed safely every month, hot
air ballooning in Cappadocia still
involves some risk.
Even with the best equipment, the
most experienced ground crews and pilots,
the most thorough safety procedures,
accidents can happen,
just as they do with commercial airlines.
The risk is increasing as hot-air
balloon flights in Cappadocia become
ever more popular. More and more balloons
launch at the same time, and try to
crowd into the same picturesque valleys
at the same time.
How Accidents Happen
The danger is not that these aircraft may collide horizontally but, rather, vertically: if a balloon rises into the basket of another balloon, its fabric envelope (the "balloon" part filled with hot air) may be damaged, causing loss of hot air and a too-rapid descent to the ground.
At this point I must re-emphasize that Cappadocian
balloon companies launch literally hundreds
of flights every day
(25 ballooning companies and 220 registered balloons, some doing two flights
daily), and accidents are extremely
Accidents are also unpredictable and
can happen to anyone, even to the most
safety-conscious companies and staff.
It's almost impossible
to know if a pilot's license has expired
or been revoked, or if insurance coverage
has lapsed. And no one in the
region wants to talk about the
rare accidents and injuries,
lest this discourage visitors from
flying in hot air balloons, as ballooning
is an important aspect of the regional
Even the government regulatory authority
is unwilling to release such information,
except perhaps in the case of a fatal
So how are you to choose a company?
Although it can be difficult to ascertain
safety-consciousness, and realizing
that accidents can happen anywhere,
anytime, to anyone, I urge you to put
some thought into choosing a balloon
are the companies I think should
If you don't choose one of those companies,
I strongly suggest that you get the help of one of my recommended
It's a bad idea to book your flight through
someone you meet on the street, in
a restaurant, carpet shop, etc. Their
interest is in earning a commission
from the ballooning company. They may
have no interest in your safety or
satisfaction. According to law, only travel agencies or the balloon companies themselves can accept your reservations, so make your reservation directly with the ballon company, or through a trustworthy travel agency.
have an interest in your safety and
satisfaction (as do I). If you have
complaints, a travel agency can help
you to obtain satisfaction. They are
also likely to recommend a balloon
company they believe to be safe and
reliable, not just any company that pays the highest sales commissions.
Watch Out for Fakes & Scams
Be aware that there are fake websites purporting to be the most-trusted balloon companies. These fake websites make you think that you are reserving your places with good companies, but at the last moment they will tell you that the company "overbooked," and they will transfer you to another company (which pays them a large commission). The company to which you are transferred may or may not be trustworthy, but if it does business like this, can you trust it?
—by Tom Brosnahan
23 balloons in this photo, but
up to 100 when it's really crowded.
Below, filling a Voyager Balloon with hot air is dramatic...but the balloon seems to like it!
practice what to do in case of
a side landing.
(That's me in the Boston
Red Sox cap.)