Light Flight Hot Air Balloons, Inc. & Barnstormer Aero
Landowner & Community Relations
Aside from passenger safety, there is nothing more important to the operation of a balloon than maintaining good community relations. The emphasis here is to cultivate a relationship of mutual respect and understanding between balloon crews and those that we launch next to, fly over, and land upon.
Balloons are creatures of the wind, borne on the gentlest of breezes to unknown places. It is Mother Nature who determines our flight path and ultimately our destination. We owe a debt of gratitude to all landowners who have, or will permit our balloons to visit. Without your kind hospitality, ballooning could not exist!
To those kind folks who let us launch and land...
Our sincere appreciation and Thanks!
Many people express to us the joy and pleasure they derive from watching our hot air balloons floating serenely in the sky. Our visual presence is a great byproduct of our commercial ride operation for those who enjoy balloon watching. Not everyone feels this way. Occasionally, we are made aware of an issue through a complaint. The most usual of which is disturbance from the noise of the burner or its effect on animals. It is important to understand the steps we take to address these concerns and to prevent problems in the first place. We take these responsibilities and our goal to be a good neighbor seriously. Our livelihood and the sport of ballooning are dependent upon these relationships. Here are some of our standard operating procedures designed to eliminate or mitigate the impact of our operations over the community.
Launch Site Selection
We endeavor not to fly over the same area day after day. To that end, we have nearly thirty-six launch sites located from Joppa to the South, Muddy Creek Forks, PA to the North, Dublin to the East, and Big Falls, Baltimore County to the West. The selection of a launch site takes into consideration wind speed and direction, the time of day, and how often we have used the site recently. We change to different locations regularly to change our flight path and avoid being over the same area every day.
Time of Day
Unfortunately, we can't control the time of day that we fly. Our morning flights are early - right at sunrise! Balloons only fly the first hours or so after sunrise and again before sunset. It is unsafe to fly at other times! This means we are in the air at the crack of dawn. We don't use some of our launch sites for morning flights because they are close to houses or there are homes immediately after takeoff. If we could fly other times of the day, we would! We often fly higher in the morning to lessen noise impact.
Altitude - Except for takeoff and landing, most of our flying area is considered uncongested airspace that has a FAA required minimum altitude of only 500 feet. We are often much higher than this, especially over sensitive areas. Sensitive areas include: stables, milking sheds, riding arenas, poultry farms, and areas of a specific complaint.
Direction - The air does not flow in the same direction at all altitudes. By changing our altitude we can sometimes change our speed and direction. This is the reason you will see the balloon at various heights at different times; sometimes low and sometimes very high. That altitude, at that time, is providing a speed or direction that permits the pilot to get to a suitable landing area, avoid a sensitive area, or hasten the transit past a sensitive area. Sometimes being lower moves us past you faster!
Livestock and Animals
Most of our crew are pet and livestock owners themselves. We are all animal lovers and want the least impact of our operations on your animals. We do what we can from a noise and altitude standpoint but there is little that can be done to eliminate our visual presence in the sky. A hot air balloon may frighten animals despite our best efforts. It is a large object in the sky and the roar of a burner can spook livestock, run animals, and cause dogs to bark. We fly using binoculars to scan ahead for cattle, horses, and especially mounted riders. We are familiar with where livestock are located in our flying area. By increasing our altitude and adding heat before getting to them, the balloon will coast past, as quietly as possible.
The balloon has a cattle burner that is a little quieter, but not as powerful as the regular burner. We can use it for short periods of time to stay aloft. Keep in mind that we have to use the burner in order to keep flying. If we don't, we will descend and then have to add a great deal of heat to keep from landing. We may often be heard talking to livestock from the balloon - a human voice coming from the balloon tends to settle the animals down - it sounds familiar to them. Some dogs just love to bark at or chase balloons. Talking to dogs only seems to encourage them. There is something in the genes of dogs that goes back to when large predators used to fly!
Our crew are trained to recognize field crops during all phases of the growing season. We endeavor to stay out of crops at all costs. There have only been two times in our 30 years of flying, that conditions dictated a landing in crops. We are responsible for any crop damage that we may cause. We recognize that crops are the landowner's livelihood; our flights should not adversely impact their income. We sometimes mistake "no till" fields as fallow until the herbicide turns them brown and before the crops come up. If wind and crop conditions permit, we will walk the balloon across rows to a fallow area, to an erosion strip, or cut area for deflation.
Balloons often land in yards, ball fields, along side roads, and in farm fields. These are normal landings since balloons are one of the few aircraft that don't necessarily fly from an airfield. Many people misinterpret a perfectly normal landing as a "crash" since it was not on an airfield or at an airport. The balloon is deflated on its side, shortly after landing, contributing to the illusion of distress. An area large enough to lay the balloon down can be a suitable landing area. Please don't make emergency calls unless asked to do so by the crew or before talking to a member of the crew; everything is probably fine.
We recognize that farmland is not public property - it's private property! We do not assume that we have permission to come and go as we please - we don't! Many of the places we land, we have prior permission. We use our skill to maneuver the balloon to these landing spots; sometimes we are unable to do so. We end up landing someplace we have not been before. The chase crew will always attempt to get to the landing site first to obtain permission. Since a balloon cannot hover or stop (unless it is on the ground), we must land first and ask permission after the fact. If no one is home, we will fly on if conditions permit. When the winds pick up, the balloon must be deflated immediately upon landing. This leaves us no option but to land where we are. If we cannot locate the landowner, we look for neighbors to speak to and leave a note. Landing without permission is something we do not like to do - it is a last resort that is done only if we have no other choice. We are uninvited guests to your home and property and we must act accordingly! We bring a whole new meaning to "just dropping in."
We maintain a list of "Prohibited Zones" or PZ's. This is a list and map locations of property that we respect the owners request to stay out of. Fortunately, this list only contains five properties in a five county area in 30 years of flying! If you wish to include your property on the PZ list, submit your request to us using the information at the bottom of this page.
Our crew is trained in the following:
- To have a thorough knowledge of the flying area, crops, livestock, PZ's, and sensitive areas.
- To be courteous, polite, and to show respect to everyone. To treat others as you wish to be treated.
- Driving - Our chase drivers are trained to: not block traffic, not drive recklessly, obey speed limits, to stay off grass without permission, and to not raise dust on dirt roads.
- General behavior - we do not litter and will pick up any trash (no matter who put it there) from all launch and landing sites. We won't drive onto grass or into a field without permission and without first checking to ensure that it is not soft and could be rutted. To drive along the edges of fields, not thru the middle. Leave all gates as we found them or as we are asked to leave them. We do not pick or touch crops.
- We show appreciation to landowners. We are grateful for being welcomed - we always say Thank You. Short rides will be offered if conditions permit. We ask if it's ok for neighbors or spectators to come onto the property before inviting them.
- We are happy to answer all questions to the best of our ability. Provide any information requested, especially how to get in contact with our office.
- We are responsible for our actions and will endeavor to repair any accidental damage promptly.
If you observe any member of our crew violating these rules or acting inappropriately, in any way - please notify us immediately at 410-836-1116.
Our Flight Schedule & Community Involvement
While it may seem that we are in the air all of the time and every day, the reality is that we only fly, on average, 23-25% of the days of the year. We are most busy on weekends and from May thru early November. This is when passenger demand is highest.
We take an active role in the community by making ourselves available to speak about hot air ballooning at schools, service organizations, and any other group. We have donated time and balloon rides to various groups throughout the years for community fund raisers and other non-profit activities. We support scouting and 4H in particular. Our balloons have been set up for display to school children at almost every elementary and middle school in Harford County and quite a few in Baltimore county.
What to do if you have a problem or a complaint
We want to know of any problems or issues with the operation of our aircraft or any balloon that you may encounter. If it is not our company, we will assist you in identifying and contacting the appropriate party. If you observe any member of our crew behaving inappropriately, flying improperly, or driving poorly, we encourage you to notify our office. You may do so anonymously if you wish; just understand that it limits our ability to address the issue. We would rather be able to respond to your concerns by letting you know how the issue was addressed. You may contact us by:
E-Mail @ LTAFlite@aol.com
By Mail @ Light Flight Balloons, Inc.
Attention: Michael Gerred, President
P.O. Box 837, Bel Air, MD 21014
Please provide as much information as possible to assist us in addressing the issue. The date, time, and specific location or address. A description of the balloon - a color pattern is helpful. What happened - be clear and concise. Your name and contact information, to assist us with any questions that we may have and to provide you with information on how your issue was handled.
We firmly believe that most problems and misunderstandings can be cleared up with common courtesy and an understanding of one another's position obtained thru meaningful dialogue. We are happy to listen to issues and complaints in a civil manner. It is our desire, to work together, to reach a solution or reasonable compromise.
Thank you for helping us be a better company and neighbor!