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.
Twice a day, Virginia Balloons' hot air balloons roar to life, elevate into the air, and showcase the landscape that makes Virginia an ideal place to defy gravity. The colorful balloons float above farmlands, along Virginia Beach, and over the lush forests that grow in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains. And if natural wonders aren't enough, the wind can carry balloons over historical Virginia for a bird's-eye view. Pilots, each with thousands of hours of flight time, guide these high-flying adventures. And, to create lasting memories, they toast each completed flight before sending balloons back to Oz for storage.
The adventure-seeking staff members of ThrillZOWN organize outdoors adventures at more than 100 locations nationwide, letting customers experience the waters, air, and land of America’s diverse regions. Seasoned guides lead adventurers on whitewater-rafting trips on inland rivers, and instructors conduct lessons in surfing and filling out life guards' paperwork at coastal beaches. Other guides help guests plunge to earth safely in tandem-skydiving and tandem-paragliding flights, while aeronauts sweep them through scenic country vistas during hot-air-balloon flights. On dry land, equestrians teach customers to think like a centaur on horseback trail rides, and professional stock-car drivers guide them in laps around a racetrack.