HOT AIR BALLOONING

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⚑ HOT AIR BALLOONING 

 

…The winds have welcomed you with softness

The sun has blessed you with its warm hands

You have flown so high and so well

That God has joined you in your laughter

and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth…

 

Why is hot air ballooning so popular?   Why is there such an interest and fascination with it?

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The first clearly recorded instance of a balloon carrying passengers used hot air to generate buoyancy and was built by two brothers in Annonay, France. The first balloon flight with humans on board took place on October 19, at the Folie Titon in Paris. The first free flight with human passengers was on November 21, 1783.

1386606_de5fc232The first modern hot air balloon was designed and built in 1960 by Ed Yost.  He made the first free flight of such an aircraft in Nebraska on October 22, 1960.

Today, hot air balloons are used primarily for recreation. There are some 7,500 hot air balloons operating in the United States. Since piloting a balloon requires some effort (licensing and purchase of equipment), many people opt to purchase a balloon flight from a company offering balloon rides. Balloon rides are available in many locations around the world and are especially popular in tourist areas.   Balloon festivals are a great way to see hot air balloons close up, and are an enjoyable family outing. Balloon festivals usually include other activities like live entertainment, amusement rides, etc.

Hot air balloons are able to fly to extremely high altitudes. However, like all unpressurised aircraft, oxygen is needed for all crew and passengers for any flight that reaches and exceeds an altitude of 12,500 feet.

153435-hot-air-balloon-ride-over-melbourne Most hot air balloon launches are made during the cooler hours of the day, at dawn or two to three hours before sunset. At these times of day, the winds are typically light making for easier launch and landing of the balloon. Flying at these times also avoids thermals, which are vertical air currents caused by ground heating that make it more difficult to control the balloon. In the extreme, the downdrafts associated with strong thermals can exceed the ability of a balloon to climb and can thus force a balloon into the ground.   Before a safe hot air balloon flight can begin, the pilot must check the weather and select a suitable take-off point. The current and weather forecast must 14-4-12-d-gh4-Ohave sufficient visibility for the pilot to see and avoid obstructions (little or no fog or low clouds) and sufficiently slow winds to allow take-off and landing (less than 5 or 10 mph depending on skill and experience of pilot, passengers, and ground crew).  The take-off point must be situated such that the predicted winds will move the balloon in the direction of suitable landing sites. Taking off from a location that is directly up wind of a hazard, such as a large body of water, a large metropolitan area, or a large uninterrupted forest, without sufficient fuel to pass over the hazard is not safe.

The direction of flight depends on the wind, but the altitude of the balloon can be controlled by changing the temperature of the air inside the envelope. The pilot may open one or more burner blast valves to increase the temperature inside the envelope, thereby increasing lift, and thus ascend or slow or stop a descent.  Communication between the balloon and a chase vehicle can be accomplished by two-way radio, or even shouting, when they are close enough together. The use of cell phones for this purpose, while the balloon is flying, may violate local telecommunication laws and should therefore be avoided except in an emergency situation.

Hot Air Balloons

The ability to fly hot air balloons in the winter is limited mostly by the ability of the participants to withstand the cold. The balloons themselves fly well in cold air. Because the temperature difference between inside and outside the balloon, not the absolute inside temperature, determines the lift it develops, a much lower internal temperature is sufficient to fly in cold weather. Sometimes, especially at balloon festivals or other special events, balloons are flown while tied to the ground with ropes. This enables quick rides to many passengers, instead of long rides drifting with the wind away from the event with one load of passengers. Tethering techniques depend on the balloon manufacturer’s instructions and wind conditions. Tethers can be attached to the basket, burner support, or the top of the envelope. While typical day flights use the main valve, using an efficient blue flame.  Though tethered, a balloon is considered a registered flying aircraft when it leaves the ground.

There are many regular gatherings of balloons and balloonists around the world. Most of these events are held on an annualtumblr_mc45pfpgPo1r2ko4vo1_500 basis. The festivities provide both a place for balloonists to interact as well as a venue for entertaining spectators. Events range in size from a few balloons and no spectators to hundreds of balloons with hundreds of thousands of spectators. Two such events are the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and the Bristol Balloon Fiesta.

A common tradition among balloonists is to have a champagne toast upon landing. Legend has it that early French aeronauts carried champagne to appease angry or frightened spectators at the landing site. A champagne toast is now often included in commercial sight-seeing flights. Along with the champagne, a popular toast among balloonists is: “soft winds and gentle landings.”

Many balloonists recite the Balloonist’s Blessing (Anon, known as ‘The Balloonists Prayer’) with the champagne toast:

The winds have welcomed you with softness

The sun has blessed you with its warm hands

You have flown so high and so well

That God has joined you in your laughter

and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth

Kathy Kiefer

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