A hot air balloon is lighter than air aircraft consisting of a bag called the envelope that is capable of containing heated air. Suspended beneath is a gondola or wicker basket (in some long-distance or high-altitude balloons, a capsule), which carries passengers and (usually) a source of heat, in most cases an open flame. On the 19th September 1783 Pilatre De Rozier, a scientist, launched the first hot air balloon called ‘Aerostat Reveillon’. The passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster and the balloon stayed in the air for a grand total of 15 minutes before crashing back to the ground.
The balloon bag or “envelope” is made of reinforced nylon fabric. It is very light (1.3 ounces per square yard) but very strong (125 pounds per square inch). The envelope is treated with a polyurethane coating to make it more airtight and to help the fabric withstand the ultraviolet rays of the sun. The pilot and passengers ride in a gondola (or basket) that is made of woven wicker, which is both strong and flexible. The gondola is connected to the envelope by stainless steel suspension cables.
Hot air rises. The envelope traps a large bubble of hot air. When the air in the envelope is heated by the burner, the balloon will rise. When the air in the envelope is allowed to cool or if the hot air is “vented” (allowed to escape) from the top of the envelope, the balloon will descend. An altimeter (to measure altitude), a rate-of-climb meter, and an envelope temperature gauge are the only instruments used in the balloon. Amazingly, the pilot can control the altitude of the balloon within a matter of a few feet!
The most popular sport balloon is approximately 55 feet wide (diameter) and 70 feet high, which is about the same as a 7-story building. It has 1,075 square yards of nylon fabric in its envelope (or one-fifth of an acre in surface area), more than 3 miles of thread, and almost one-half mile of nylon webbing (used for reinforcing). Its 77,550 cubic foot air capacity displaces almost 3 tons of air and could hold 62,279 bushels of apples or 579,340 gallons of water. These sport balloons can carry 3 to 4 people.
The balloon envelope is spread on the ground and the gondola laid on its side and attached to the envelope cables. A portable (gasoline powered) fan pushes cold air into the envelope. When the envelope is about half inflated with outside (ambient) air, a propane burner is ignited until the air inside is heated enough for the balloon to rise to an upright position. With a small amount of additional heat, the balloon becomes buoyant. Typically, the inflation takes about 30 minutes.
The sport of ballooning is a wonderful group or family activity. To safely launch and fly a balloon requires a minimum crew of four people. Duties of the crew typically include launch preparation, following the balloon flight in the chase vehicle, obtaining permission of the landowner for the balloon landing and retrieval, keeping spectators out of the landing area, and insuring that gates are left as they are found and that property is not damaged.
A typical balloon system – envelope, gondola, fuel tanks, and 40 gallons of fuel – will weigh about 300kg, deflated on the ground. In the air, the complete system, including the weight of the air inside the envelope, will weigh about 2 ½ tons.
Common Liquid propane gas (LPG) is used to heat hot air balloons. Some balloons carry 40 gallons of propane in two 20-gallon stainless steel tanks; others carry three 10-gallon tanks. Propane is a stable and predictable fuel, but highly volatile (burns easily). It is carried in liquid form, under pressure in the tanks, and supplied to the burners through flexible hoses. The burner flame may shoot out 10 to 12 feet in the blast that the pilot controls. A typical flight lasting 45 minutes to 1 hour, and consume about 20 to 30 gallons of propane. Most ride balloons have two independent burner and independent fuel systems for added safety.
Since a balloon travels with the wind, it is not possible to determine an exact landing site prior to launch. However, a pilot is able, through the study of wind currents, to determine the general direction of the flight.
Generally speaking, they don’t. A balloon drifts in the same direction and at the same speed as the wind. The skill is for the pilot to pick the altitude that has the most desired wind direction. Surface winds many times blow in a very different direction from the winds aloft. ( 3000 Feet Above ground level) Altitude control is achieved with the on-board burner. Longer “burns” will achieve lift. Shorter “burns”, or none at all will allow the air to cool, and the balloon to descend.
Hot Air Ballooning is very much weather sensitive. On very rare occasions we might have to cancel a flight at the last minute, sometimes even just before takeoff. Your safety is paramount and our main concern.
As fast as the wind blows. But if the wind is over 8 miles per hour at ground level, balloons are not normally going to be inflated because of the increased possibility of burning the fabric and because landing would likely be rough and require a large field.
Flights in hot air balloons have been recorded at over 50,000 feet. However, the sport of ballooning is most enjoyable when flying 1,200 to 3,000 feet. Or just above the treetops. When balloons fly over populated areas, they maintain an altitude of at least 1,000 feet.
Hot air ballooning is a year-round sport. Weather conditions for ballooning are best just after sunrise and 2-3 hours before sunset. Light, ideal winds (0-8 mph) often occur during these times. During the day, when the sun is high, thermals (large bubbles of hot air that rise from the sun-heated earth) make ballooning hazardous.
After the balloon is launched, the “chase crew” follows in a chase vehicle. Using maps of the area and radios, as well as visual contact, they try to be close by when the balloon lands. The crew helps the pilot deflate and disassemble the balloon and return passengers and equipment back home.
Tamil Nadu International Balloon Festival (TNIBF) 5th time in a row happening at Mahindra World City, Chengalpattu from January 04th to 6th, 2019 & Sakthi Mills Ground, Pollachi from January 14th to 16th, 2019.
The temperature during the flight will be quite similar as the one at ground level. Since the balloon is moving at the same speed as the wind, we lose the wind chill effect. Combine with the burners, you might even fell it slightly warmer in the air than on the ground.
So, dress accordingly to the temperature forecasted. For flights at the end of the day, it would be wise to bring a jacket or a sweater for after the landing.
Anyone who would like to take part in a hot air balloon trip should be able to stand during the whole flight. Flights are not recommended for pregnant women, or for anyone who has undergone recent surgery.
People under the influence of alcohol or drugs will not be accepting onboard.
There is no minimum or maximum age to fly in a hot air balloon. However, children should be tall enough to be able to see over the basket (approximately 42 inches/ 3.5 feet or 105 cm).