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Tethered hot-air ballooning and the BSA

Ready to take your pack, troop, team, or crew to new heights?

Schedule a ride in a tethered hot-air balloon. The activity, which previously wasn’t approved, was officially OK’d this week by the BSA’s Health and Safety team.

Notice I said tethered hot-air ballooning — not the kind where you ride for miles like the Wizard of Oz. Unlike traditional hot-air ballooning, the tethered variety uses at least three lines connected to the ground to keep the balloon from moving horizontally. The BSA has set the maximum permitted height at 70 feet.

Now, don’t go buying a balloon and trying this yourself. The balloon must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration, and the pilot must be certified and insured.

Before planning a ride, familiarize yourself with some key requirements:

Tethered hot-air ballooning key requirements

  • Tethered balloon events must comply with all FAA regulations and BSA requirements.
  • A minimum open area of 200 feet by 200 feet clear of all obstructions and overhead power lines, light poles, and fences is necessary for safe inflation.
  • The owner of the property selected as a suitable tether or launch site must grant permission in writing.
  • The balloon must be secured to the ground with tether lines from at least three separate locations on the perimeter of the tether site using poles, trees, or vehicles as attachment points. These attachment points must be capable of supporting several thousand pounds of force.
  • Tether lines must be at least 5/8-inch nylon rope (load strength of 8,800 pounds) and in good condition.
  • Tethered rides may rise to a maximum height of 70 feet.
  • The tether event must occur between the hours of sunrise and sunset (tethers are best completed in the early morning hours, before 10 a.m.).
  • The balloon must be registered with the FAA.
  • The pilot must hold a commercial certification, be properly rated on the aircraft, and must be onboard when passengers are carried. The pilot and balloon must carry insurance in the amount of $1 million, and the BSA must be named as an additional insured on the policy. (This may require additional pre-planning for the event).
  • Waivers must be provided for the passengers and crew in advance of the event.
  • Any age limit will be set at the pilot’s discretion.

For the BSA’s complete guide to tethered hot-air ballooning, click here.

11 Comments on Tethered hot-air ballooning and the BSA

  1. I’ll ask, because I’m sure someone will. What about rappelling out for the free descent for the Climbing merit badge?

    • No commercial balloon pilot will EVER allow anyone to leave the basket while in “flight”, tethered or not. The FAA strictly prohibits this and the sanctions are serious.

  2. Terry Mohn // March 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm // Reply

    Interesting that the BSA is requiring only $1 million insurance when they require a $2 million rider for all outside use of BSA facilities!

  3. Sounds like a lot of safe fun!
    Can a lawyer explain how the landowner signature and the insurance rider makes the event safer? Was night time viewing of nature at 70 feet too dangerous to consider?
    The paperwork just might keep our scouts from this exciting, adventurous experience.

  4. Will we be seeing a change in the aviation merit badge allowing for this to be the “flight” in an aircraft?

  5. I am a commercial balloon pilot, commercial airline pilot, former District Scout Executive, and former Eagle Scout so have some background in all of this. If anyone has specific questions about ballooning or aviation in general I would be most happy to serve as a resource for you. It is very exciting to have this opportunity open to scouts as it is a safe, fun sport and needs the revitalization that young people can give it. Many of us who got into the sport of ballooning back in the 1970s and 1980s are retiring and not being replaced by younger entrants. There is much to be learned and much to share and I hope people take advantage of the opportunity this presents. As I said, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you have questions that I can answer. Capt. Steve Derebey, Roscoe, IL derebey@mac.com

    • what do u mean “former eagle scout” does that mean u are not an eagle this current day… once an eagle always an eagle!

  6. In 2010 I was crew for one of the BSA balloons @ Milan, MI during there annual event. It was the same weekend of THE Big Game of MSU vs UofM football game.

    From what I observed Boy Scouts sure has changed since my son was a Tiger cub back in the mid 80’s. One dad brought a HUGE large screen TV so the boys could watch the game. And there was a huge musical concert after that. Needless to say those 2 things drew more of the boys than the balloons did.

  7. CGreene840 // March 29, 2012 at 8:17 pm // Reply

    Is this actually new? I’ve been scanning our troop’s photo archive, and there are hot air balloons in photos from a jamboree in the 80s.

    • Steve Derebey // March 29, 2012 at 9:17 pm // Reply

      I think what’s new is the ability of scouts to “ride” in the tethered balloon. I don’t think that has ever been permitted before.

      Steve

  8. Bobbie Duffy // October 11, 2013 at 11:24 am // Reply

    So, is there a badge for this or not?

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