FAQ

How do hot-air balloons work?
The basic science of hot-air balloons.

Archimedes Principle

Going Up! Hot-Air balloons “float”Balloons don’t fly, but rather they float. Just like a piece of wood floats in water, a hot-air balloon floats in the surrounding air. By takig the trapped air in the envelope and heating it above the ambient temperature, the balloon will rise. How hot the pilot has to heat that air, is based upon three factors: how much weight is in the balloon, how high the pilot wants to go, and the ambient air temperature.

Propane tanks are used to fuel burners that warm the air inside the balloon. The balloon is filled with the same air that surrounds it on the outside. It’s just warmer.

How are balloons inflated?

After the “envelope” is laid out, a gas powered fan forces unheated air through the balloon’s “mouth” and into the envelope. This is called “cold air inflation.” After it fills, the crew helps stand the balloon and basket up as the pilot ignites the burners and heats the air inside the balloon. This is called “hot-air inflation.”

What fuel do hot-air balloons use?

Hot air balloons carry 20 to 45 gallons of propane in stainless steel fuel tanks.

How big is a balloon?

The most popular size is about 55 feet wide and 7 stories tall, uses almost 1800 sq. yards of nylon fabric, 3 miles of thread, a 1/2 mile of reinforced nylon webbing (load tapes), and holds about 90,000 cu.ft. of heated air. Some “special shape” balloons and larger commercial passenger balloons are much, much bigger (150,000sq.ft. to 300,000sq.ft).

How much does a balloon weigh?

The average hot-air balloon (with a deflated envelope, a gondola or basket, 30-40 gallons of fuel in 2 tanks) weighs about 800 pounds. Once inflated and in the air it will weigh about 2 1/2 tons! Some special shape balloons weigh thousands of pounds!

Can you steer a hot-air balloon?

Winds determine a balloon’s direction. Balloonists can steer a balloon, to a limited extent, by adjusting the balloon’s altitude to make use of different wind speeds and directions. You use the burners to heat the air and make the balloon rise. You may stop “burning” the fuel and stay level for awhile and then start descending. Venting air out the top makes you go down quicker. Winds at different heights blow different directions. Follow the wind patterns and adjust the altitude of your balloon to send you in the direction you would like to go.

Steering a hot-air balloon

How high do balloons fly?

Balloons can fly to 10,000 feet or higher. A typical pleasure flight would fly from treetop level to a few thousand feet.

Why do balloons fly in the early morning and late evening?

Winds are generally most calm and favorable the first hours after sunrise and the last hours before sunset. The sun’s uneven heating of the earth’s surface causes strong, variable winds. In the morning, it takes a few hours to heat the earth’s surface enough to generate the thermal activity that creates wind. In the evening, the sun’s intensity has diminished enough to reduce winds to acceptable flight levels. Ideal winds are 3-6 mph.

How long is an average balloon flight?

Usually a balloon flight lasts about an hour. At an average wind speed of about 5 mph, a balloon will fly 2 – 8 miles. Ground crews follow the balloon, talking on the radio with the pilot. The balloon will land in an open area and the ground crew is there to help with the recovery and take everyone back to the launch site.

What equipment makes up a balloon?

Balloons include several parts: the envelope (the fabric portion of the balloon), the basket or gondola, burners and fuel systems. The basket is made of wicker, which is strong yet flexible, and is aesthetically pleasing. Burners can come in either single, double, or triple configurations, and each puts out the equivalent of over 5,000 horsepower.

Required instruments include: Altimeter for displaying altitude, Variometer to show rate of climb or decent, and Pyrometer that shows the air temperature in the top of the envelope. Fuel systems consist of stainless steel propane tanks and fuel hoses. Other necessary equipment includes an inflator fan, two-way radios and some means of transporting the balloon from location to location when it is not flying.

What is a tethered balloon ride?

Tethered balloon rides are available for your special event or corporate promotion. With the balloon tethered to key anchor points, the balloon is held from moving in horizontal directions. The balloon is allowed to ascend and descend under the control of the balloon’s FAA certified pilot. The Ground Crew communicates with the Pilot by radio and takes direction from the Pilot.

Where do you land the balloon?

How do you get back?Your hot-air balloon Pilot will determine the landing site, based on factors like passenger safety, the weather and the best spot that will ensure easy access for the Ground Crew. Once everyone is on the ground and the balloon packed up, the balloon chase vehicle and Ground Crew will get you back safely.

Landing a balloon

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