Since You Asked

What are the laws governing hot-air balloons? Every year when they have their rally here, they set down in any open area they choose. Isn't that trespassing? They also awaken entire neighborhoods early in the morning with the sound of the burners, causing every dog in the area to bark, as well as upsetting livestock.

— Ramona G., Central Point

Landing a hot-air balloon on private property would be trespassing if the pilots didn't have permission. But local balloon aficionados such as Treasa Sprague count on "chase teams" to travel door-to-door to obtain property owners' blessing.

"Very rarely do we get a 'no,' " said Sprague, who also organizes the annual Rogue Valley Balloon Rally in July.

Communicating via radio with balloon pilots, chase teams have a five- or 10-minute lead to secure permission to land in a privately owned field. Occasionally, if no one is home to say 'yea' or 'nay,' the balloon touches down anyway, but only to drop off passengers, Sprague said. They never dismantle a balloon, a fairly lengthy process, in a location that hasn't been authorized, she added. "He has to fly on."

If attempting to land balloons in a commercial parking lot, chase teams check with employees inside, provided the business is open. Yet businesses usually are more than willing to help because hot-air balloons attract attention to their location, Sprague said.

Federal Aviation Administration rules prohibit aircraft from landing in a manner that poses a hazard to people or property, said Mike Fergus, spokesman for FAA's Northwest Mountain Region. But, Fergus said, "similar to a helicopter, they may land where they desire."

That includes unobtrusive landings in certain public rights-of-way, like cul-de-sacs. If landing in a neighborhood, pilots often give residents tethered rides as a show of appreciation, Sprague said. Yet dogs, for some reason, are agitated by the balloons' burners, she admitted.

Sprague, her husband, Larry, and other local balloon enthusiasts commonly launch from the field behind Central Point's Jewett Elementary School — with the school district's permission. In return, balloon pilots give students a demonstration, Sprague said. Even in the absence of a coordinated event like the annual rally, Rogue Valley residents can expect to see balloons take to the skies all summer and into mid-October.

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