Hot Air Balloon FAQs

What are hot air balloons made of?

The bag, or envelope, as it is more properly called – is made of a reinforced fabric called rip-stop nylon (some balloons are made of dacron). The material is very light weight, but is very strong. The fabric is coated on the inside to prevent leaks.

How big are hot air balloons?

The typical sport balloons range in size from 65,000 to 105,000 cubic feet in volume and stand around 70 feet tall.

How do you steer the thing?

Strictly speaking, you don’t. The balloon goes where the wind takes it. However, the winds at varying altitudes may blow in different directions and at different speeds, so the trick is to climb or descend to an altitude where the wind is blowing in the direction you want to go.

How fast does it go?

As fast as the wind. Or as slow. Since the balloon has no forward propulsion system, its speed is determined entirely by the speed of the wind. That’s why balloon races are strictly races of accuracy not speed.

How is it inflated?

During the inflation process, ballooning becomes a group sport. Since a balloon is quite unwieldy on the ground, especially in gusty winds, it takes about four people to get the balloon inflated. Of course, the more people there are, the more fun you can have. To start off, the envelope is stretched out on the ground and attached to the basket, which is lying on its side. A small gasoline-powered fan blows air into the balloon. Then the burner is turned on, and the air in the balloon is heated. The hot air rises, lifting the balloon upright.

How high do balloons fly?

Most balloon flights occur between 500 and 1000 above the ground. At some point in most flights we go to an altitude of 2,000 to 3,000 feet!! And some of our flight is spent tickling the tree tops and chatting with people as we float over their houses. The world record altitude for a hot air balloon is 64,997 feet.

How long can you keep the balloon in the air?

It depends. Normally, the balloon carries enough fuel to remain aloft for almost 2 hours (you never want to land because you are out of fuel). It is important to note that factors like outside air temperature, weight being carried in the basket, and weather ultimately determine the duration of the flight.

What are the baskets made of?

The baskets are made from rattan and each one is individually woven by hand.

When is the best time to fly a balloon?

Usually just after sunrise and one or two hours before sunset. This is the time of day when winds are calmest and the air most stable.

What kind of fuel is used?

Propane, kept in pressurized tanks on the floor of the basket. The balloon carries 30-40 gallons of liquid propane. It is carried under pressure and passes to the burners through flexible hoses. When the valves are opened, the propane atomizes and is ignited by a pilot light in the burners. The flame may shoot out as much as ten or twenty feet, making a loud “whoosh”.

How do you get back?

With the help of a chase crew that drives a chase vehicle. This chase crew follows the flight of the balloon (to the extent that the existing roads allow) and should be on hand to make the recovery when the balloon touches down. The chase crew helps pack up and will give you a ride back to the launch site…if you have behaved!

What is the difference between a gas balloon and a hot air balloon?

A gas balloon is completely enclosed and is filled with helium or hydrogen. A hot air balloon gets its lift from heating the air within it.

Do you need a license to pilot a balloon?

Yes. A Balloon Pilot Certificate is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. You must pass an FAA written examination, obtain a prescribed number of hours in a balloon, make a solo flight and a flight to altitude, pass a flight test and submit a medical statement.