A hot air balloon is a relatively simple craft. To help ensure the safety of pilot and passengers, a hot air balloon may carry several pieces of safety equipment.
Balloon Safety Equipment
In the basket
A secondary source of ignition is a very important piece of balloon safety equipment. Each burner is equipped with a small pilot light which burns continuously. If for any reason the pilot light fails the pilot need to be able to relight the main burner. Most burners are equipped with a built in piezo sparker but piots generally carry a spare in the form of a welding torch flint sparker or a piezo electric barbeque ignitor.
Many systems, especially those that carry passengers have completely redundant fuel and burner systems as part of standard balloon safety equipment: two or more fuel tanks, connected with separate hoses, which feed two or more distinct burners. This enables a safe landing in the case of a failyre somewhere in one system or if a system must be disabled because of a fuel leak.
A fire extinguisher suitable for extinguishing propane fires is a useful piece of balloon safety equipment. Most balloons carry a 1 kg AB:E type fire extinguisher.
A handling or drop line is mandatory balloon safety equipment in many countries. It is a rope or webbing of 20 – 30 metres in length which is attached to the balloon basket with a quick release connection at one end. In very calm wind conditions the balloon pilot can throw the handling line from the balloon so that the ground crew can safely guide the balloon away from obstructions on the ground.
Pilot and Passenger Personal Protective Equipment
The pilot should wear flame resistant gloves made of leather or some more sophisticated material, such as nomex. These will enable the pilot to shut off a gas valve in the case of a leak even if there is a flame present. Gloves also provide protection against freeze burns from liquid propane.
Clothes made of natural fibers are recommended for the pilot and passengers. These will singe and not burn readily if brought into contact with an open flame. Many synthetic fibers, unless especially formulated for use near flame or high temperatures like nomex, will melt onto the wearer and can cause severe burning.
Hearing protection is recommended for anyone that is regularly exposed to burner or inflation fan noise.
Ground Crew Personal Protective Equipment
The ground crew should wear gloves on their hands whenever the possibility of handling ropes or lines exists as standard balloon safety equipment. The mass and exposed surface to air movement of a medium sized balloon is sufficient to cause rope burns to the hands of anyone trying to stop or prevent movement. The ground crew should also wear sturdy shoes and at least long pants in case of the need to access a landing or landed balloon in rough or overgrown terrain.
Technical data content credited to Mr Steve Griffin