Flying for sport can be very rewarding, but it also comes with a fair amount of hassle and expense—from training for the required certificates, to maintaining an airplane and paying for a hangar to keep it in. But for those who yearn to fly purely for pleasure and not for transportation, a new option is about to enter the market—a light sport hot-air balloon, designed and tested in France, and making its U.S. debut October 6 at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, in New Mexico.
The FlyDoo is designed to be easy and fun to fly. The lightweight basket, which holds the pilot plus one passenger, folds up for storage and can easily fit in a closet. To get to your favorite launch site—which doesn’t need to be an airport, but any open space that you have permission to use—it can easily be transported in a car or even with a bike trailer. The burner, which heats the air inside the envelope to create lift, is powered by propane, stored in tanks that fit inside the basket.
Ballooning is not the sport of choice for everyone—safe launches are restricted by wind speeds, so most ballooning is enjoyed first thing in the morning, often around dawn, when the winds tend to be lightest. The pilot has little choice about the route of flight, which is determined by the wind direction aloft. FlyDoo offers a unique vectored thrust unit (VTU) that can be attached to the basket railing—essentially, a small propeller powered by a battery pack—which can add some extra push for those times when the wind might die down altogether. But if your idea of a blissful start to the day is to drift along above the treetops, relaxing with your morning coffee while enjoying the scenery and chatting with folks on the ground as you pass overhead, then a FlyDoo might be the aircraft for you.
If the FAA approves the design, it will be the first hot-air-balloon to qualify for the light sport category. The company plans to sell the complete aircraft for about $21,000, with the VTU available for an additional $14,000.