Day Tripper - Balloon Flights

Up, up and away... if you've never been on an air balloon flight, it may deserve a top-five spot on your autumn bucket list. Alexandria Balloon Flights' Balloon Loft at the Sky Manor Airport can take you on a memorable balloon flight across the tri-state area from scenic Pittstown, located equidistant from New York City and Philadelphia, about an hour away from Monmouth County.
At the beginning of the fall season, the green foliage along the New Jersey and Pennsylvania border pops out in vibrant hues of red, yellow and orange. A balloon flight across the area is a unique way to absorb the natural, sometimes forgotten beauty of New Jersey.
FAA certified pilots will guide you, your family and friends, or a special loved one on a private, serene journey through New Jersey and into eastern Pennsylvania or New York State. Breathe the crisp autumn air while taking in the panoramic view of picturesque multi-colored trees, bushes, rivers and bridges, for an inspiring, unforgettable experience.
Olsen recommends arriving at the Balloon Loft at least one half hour before your scheduled flight. Since the Sky Manor Airport invites other balloons into the launch field, as you wait to board on the covered patio you can enjoy the sight of other decorative balloons ascending.
As ballooning is literally a fair-weather activity, balloon rides must occur when the wind speed is less than 10 mph. For this reason, Alexandria Balloon Flights usually launch around dawn or approximately two hours before sunset, when the winds are typically at their lowest point. Taking a flight during the early hours of the morning or at dusk comes with several advantages. Passengers can bask in the calming early-morning sunlight as it livens up the local rolling hills and farms, or enjoy a late-evening flight as the sun dips low over the Delaware River.
Multiple balloons can be reserved and launched from the airport at the same time to accommodate larger groups of friends, family members, or corporate outings. So whether you want to book a private, romantic flight for a special occasion, a fun family outing for a birthday, or a different variation on a corporate event, Alexandria Balloon Flights offers the right package for an unforgettable morning or evening for all ages.
After your tranquil, hour-long flight, Olsen and his chase crew invite you back to the Balloon Loft, the region's exclusive ballooning center, to browse the gift shop and re-live your journey with a slideshow of your balloon ride. On weekend evening flights, you may add a touch of elegance by toasting your adventurous day with champagne and hors d'oeuvres on a covered outdoor terrace.
Although each balloon flight is contingent upon tranquil and appropriate weather conditions, Olsen makes every effort to stay open and schedule flights through the end November. For a truly unique way to celebrate a special occasion, such as a wedding, birthday, anniversary, retirement or marriage proposal, or for an alternative escape from the ordinary during the busy and festive fall season, schedule an air balloon trip at Alexandria Balloon Flights.

Kevin Olsen, Alexandria Balloon Flights' founder and owner, has enjoyed piloting air balloons for more than 30 years. A retired commercial air pilot, Olsen turned his balloon flying hobby into a career in 1991 when his former employer, Eastern Airlines, shut down operations. Now, more than 20 years later, Olsen has piloted about 15,000 passengers over the tri-state area, and enjoys showcasing a birds-eye view of the area's unique and innate beauty.
As a young teenager, Olsen was fascinated by the prospect of flying and yearned to learn the various aspects of the aviation industry. At the age of 15, he bartered washing planes and cutting grass at local New Jersey airports for flight lessons. While attending Georgia Tech, Olsen worked as a flight instructor in Atlanta. Soon afterwards, the fledgling pilot enlisted in the Air Force and learned how to fly F-15 fighters for the New Jersey Air National Guard. His piloting career also included flying research aircraft for Princeton University's aeronautical engineering college, where he had his first encounter with a hot air balloon. Olsen had never seen a hot air balloon before, and he was intrigued by the balloon floating overhead and followed it until it landed. There, the pilot informed him Princeton University was starting a balloon club, and he soon joined.
His lifelong dedication to aviation transformed his casual hobby of balloon flying into a full-time job. Now, Alexandria Balloon Flights lures New Jersey residents to bask in the breathtaking beauty of the Garden State in a way they've never done before.

A Few Fun Facts
• The activity of hot air ballooning was founded in France in 1793 by Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier.
• After a successful test flight that included a duck, sheep and a rooster, the first free-ascent manned balloon flight took place on Nov. 21, 1783. It travelled over Paris for 5.5 miles and stayed in the air for 23 minutes. Benjamin Franklin, who was in Europe working on a treaty to end the American Revolutionary War, witnessed the flight.
• Ten years later, on Jan. 9, 1783, the first hot air balloon voyage in the United States took flight. Jean-Pierre Blanchard piloted the balloon from Philadelphia to Deptford, New Jersey.
• Every hot air balloon is comprised of three basic parts: A basket, sometimes also called a gondola; the burner that heats the air; and the envelope, which is the actual balloon piece.
• Balloon flights are accompanied by a chase crew who help inflate and launch the balloon, and then follow it from the ground and meet the passengers upon landing to assist in bringing them back to the airport.
• The highest hot air balloon flight on record is 69,852 feet, set in India in 2005. However, most typical leisure balloon flights rarely reach above a few thousand feet.

Getting There

Take the Garden State Parkway North to exit 127 onto I-287 North. Continue for approximately 20 miles, then take exit #21B/l-78 West to Easton on the left. Continue onto I-78 West. Proceed for 15 miles, then take exit #15 towards route 173 East/Pittstown. Bear left onto County Route 513. Continue for approximately four miles and stay straight onto County Route 615. After one mile, turn right onto Sky Manor Road. Alexandria Balloon Flights is on the right in one mile. Follow signs to appropriate parking lot.

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09 Sep 2016

By Paul Williams