The burner roars to life and inflates a nine-story-tall balloon, hoisting a basket aloft into air currents just above the treetops. Cradled in the basket alongside a Federal Aviation Administration–licensed commercial pilot, passengers look out upon panoramic views of forests and rolling open countryside. They drift along, breathing in the perfume of flowers below and catching glimpses of deer foraging for leaves, eagles rising on thermals, and foxes prowling the woods. The pilot eventually lands the balloon on firm ground and passengers are transported to the balloon port, where they pause for photo opportunities, disembark, and celebrate with a postflight complimentary champagne toast.
Whether leading visitors on regular tours of the countryside like these or undertaking large-scope marketing projects to espouse Virginia’s charms, Balloons Over Virginia, Inc. maintains a strong sense of pride for their state. For example, for several years its staff piloted the crimson-and-white "Virginia is for Lovers" balloon on low flights throughout North America. Staffers extend their aerial-navigation skills to outdoor events as well, where they slowly fly attendees up to 100 feet in the air on rope-tethered aerostats. They also head to classrooms to teach balloon-related math, science, and aviation history before taking students on a brief balloon voyage.