Ballooning Basics and answers to the most common questions people have about hot air balloons and the science behind this wonderful form of flight.
How high can a balloon fly?
We generally fly between 1,000 and 3,000 feet (300 – 900 metres) above the ground. A number of factors affect our choice of flight level including the wind conditions on the day. The world record altitude for a manned balloon is (112,600 feet) 34668 metres which was set by Malcolm D Ross in the gulf of Mexico in 1961. This record was set during a military sponsored flight. The world record for a hot air balloon is 68337 feet (21027 metres) which was set by Vijaypat Singhania in India on November 2005.
How long does a balloon last?
Modern balloons have a life of about 500 – 600 flying hours. This is can be influenced by a number of factors and can be reduced sgnificantly if the balloon is flown infrequently or is packed up wet.
How much does a balloon cost?
Our balloons cost just over A$100,000 by the time we set them up with radios and fuel tanks.
What sort of fuel does a hot air balloon use?
Hot air balloons generally use a liquified petroleum gas (LPG) like propane or butane or a mixture of LPG gases for fuel. In Australia, propane is most commonly used but some pilots like to use Autogas which is a mixture of various LPG products because it costs less.
What is a balloon made of?
Hot air balloons are generally made out of a specialised ripstop nylon fabric although some manufacturers prefer to use polyester. The fabric weave is coated to give it better UV protection, make it somewhat flame retardant and to reduce the amount of air that will leak throught the fabric weave (porosity). The bottom of the balloon is normally made from ‘Nomex’ which is a heavy weight flame retardant fabric.
How heavy is a balloon?
Our balloons weigh more than 710kg before we add fuel or passengers. The balloon envelope itself weighs 230 kg and the basket, burners and fuel tanks about 470 kg.
What happens if the balloon gets a hole in it?
Small holes do not affect the performance of the balloon dramatically.
Is the balloon safe?
Hot air balloon safety is closely related to the attitudes of the pilot who is flying the balloon. It is very rare for people to be injured in a balloon because they are generally flying at low speed. Weather is the biggest risk whilst ballooning, that is why our pilots are very picky as to what conditions they will fly in.
Balloons in most parts of the world, including Australia, are maintaned in accordance with a fixed manufacturers maintenance schedule which includes regular (100 flight hours or 12 month) inspections in addition to the maintenance work that must be done to correct any damage. In Australia, balloons that are used for carrying commercial passengers must be inspected and maintained by approved workshops.
Why do you fly so early in the morning?
Balloons fly early in the morning because that is when there is the best chance of getting light and stable winds.
Why can’t we fly in the afternoon?
The climate in Australia is generally too warm to be able to conduct regular balloon flights in the afternoons. The warmer conditions that we have here often mean that the unstable air currents associated with thermals is evident untill well after sunset. In some colder climates afternoon flights can be conducted instead of or as well as morning flights but this is generally not the case in Australia.