Wonders of Flight, which opened in September of 2012, is located directly behind Wonder Works in Pigeon Forge. This exciting new attraction safely elevates up to 30 passengers to an altitude of 400 feet using a state-of-the-art helium balloon. Visitors will enjoy the panoramic, 360-degree views that the open air gondola provides. The views are incredible all year, but on a clear fall day they are breathtaking.
The72 foot diameter balloon was manufactured by Aerophile, the world leader in tethered gas balloons. In addition to the Wonders of Flight balloon ride, the aviation company has manufactured over 50 tethered balloons for high-profile clients such as Walt Disney World, the city of Paris, and Chantilly Castle.
After we boarded the gondola, the pilot briefly explained what we should expect, and the balloon began its ascent. The pilot, who was personable and had a good sense of humor, entertained his passengers with facts and jokes during the entire trip. Once we reached 400 feet, we were allowed to walk all the way around the 360 degree gondola to take the sights in. The bird’s eye view gave me a new appreciation for the scenic landscape of Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains! After three or four minutes at altitude, we began our descent and landed shortly thereafter. The Wonders of Flight experience was incredible, and it is highly recommended!
My only complaint about this attraction is the short duration. With a price of over $15 per adult, a short ten-minute ride does not seem long enough – we spent considerably more time ascending and descending than we did at the top. However, if you can get past the price tag, this attraction is unique and worthy of a visit.
The balloon, which is 102 feet tall and is made out of bullet-proof Kevlar, has an unparalleled safety record. The Wonders of Flight balloon is secured to earth with a 22mm aircraft cable that can handle 99,000 pounds of resistance. Even if the cable became 95% severed, it would still be strong enough to safely winch the balloon back to the launch platform! The hydro-electric winch system has a primary winch, an auxiliary winch, and finally a backup safety system. The balloon is meant to be tethered at all times, but it is FAA certified for flight and operated by a highly-trained FAA certified balloon pilot. If a catastrophic event were to cause the cable to rupture, the pilot is able to use a combination of a powerful fan, emergency flying controls, and emergency deflation to land the balloon safely. Since Aerophile invented the tethered balloon system 16 years ago, they have safely flown over 1,500,000 passengers in over 20 countries!
Before you drive over to Wonders of Flight, call (865) 868-1800 to ensure the attraction is operational. A number of factors including: visibility, clouds, winds, storms, and mechanical issues can impact the attraction’s operating schedule.
The Wonders of Flight balloon attraction is located directly behind Wonder Works just off the main Parkway in Pigeon Forge, TN.
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