Breezy Rider

 "Get all Fired up over Science"

Teachers Manual

2006 school year

Version I


A Short History of Hot Air Ballooning

     On November 5, 1782, in Avignon, France, Joseph Montgolfier, while watching smoke rise from a fire, and carrying with it pieces of ash, thought that if he could capture enough smoke in a container of some sort, that it may be able to lift some weight. After some simple experiments, with folded pieces of paper placed above the fire, confirmed his suspicions, he wrote to his younger brother, Etienne, in Annonay to “prepare a large quantity of taffeta and string. I will show you the most astonishing thing in the world!” 


    Their family owned a wallpaper manufacturing business, and had plenty of material with which to experiment.  When Joseph returned to Annonay, he and his brother began their experiments.  On June 4, 1783, after many trials with encouraging results, they organized the first public exhibition.  A balloon about 36 feet in diameter was filled with smoke and heat from a fire of straw and wool reaching an internal temperature of 189.5 degrees before Joseph instructed the eight men holding it to let go.  It slowly rose to 590 feet and traveled two kilometers in the rain before gently returning to the earth. 


 . . . a ram, a duck and a chicken?


    The Academy of Sciences in Paris, upon hearing of the Montgolfier experiments, invited them to demonstrate their new invention at an exposition in Versailles. The brothers began work on their largest balloon yet, to be display on September 19, 1783 before King Louis XVI. The “Martial” was elegantly decorated and stood 57 feet high. Suspended from the balloon in a cage were a ram, a duck and a chicken, who were to be the first three aeronauts in history.



    After filling the balloon with thick black smoke from a huge fire pot built in the center of a platform and beneath the balloon, they attached the cage containing the first three aeronauts. When they released the ropes that were restraining the balloon, it rose to 1650 feet and then gently descended a little less than two miles away.  Most references of the event report that the passengers landed unharmed. Although one version reports that the chicken had a broken wing but goes on to say that the mishap was the result of the ram stepping on it and had nothing to do with the balloon. The report also points out that the three animals lived out a long life in Marie Antonettes’ Royal Zoo. 


 . . . first manned balloon flight



    On October 15, 1783, the French physicist, Jean-Francios Pilatre de Rozier, who was the curator of the Museum of Natural History, offered his services and became the first human passenger in a tethered balloon hot air balloon. This was again repeated on October 17th and 19th with longer ropes and additional passengers.



    Finally, on November 21, 1783, at Mouette Castle in the woods of Boulogne, the first manned free flight of a hot air balloon took place.  The Montgolfiers had built a beautiful new balloon for the occasion. It stood 69 feet high, was 46 feet in diameter and weighed 1595 pounds fully loaded. This balloon had a fire pot or burner suspended in the center of the mouth with a large gallery surrounding it which held the straw or hay and wool fuel and water.  The two aeronauts were seated on each side to maintain balance.  The beautiful balloon was made of cotton cloth soaked in alum to make it less porous and more flame retardant. It was elegantly decorated with the royal insignia and astrological symbols.  Pilatre de Rozier was joined by Marquis de Arlandes, leader of the armed forces, at the order of King Louis XVI.  After a short tethered “test flight”, which resulted in some damage to the envelope due to the wind, and the repair which took less than two hours, the balloon majestically lifted from the ground in front of an estimated crowd of 500,000 spectators, among them Benjamin Franklin. It ascended to over 2950 feet as it crossed the Seine. When it began to descend the two aeronauts fed the fire with more hay and wool. Despite large holes burned in the balloon from sparks and the fire, they again rose and eventually landed, unharmed, in the countryside near Coulbarbe Mill, twenty-five minutes and five miles from where they first ascended. 


     Over the next half century, many “smoke balloon" flights took place in many different countries but this mode of transportation, although quite intriguing, was not very practical and slowly died out due to the lack of a controllable heat source.  The science was still quite new and many of the early experimenters attributed the “magic” lift to the smoke and not the heat resulting in the frequent references to "smoke balloons."  The open fire pot in the middle of the platform with its hot embers and rising ashes and sparks resulted in holes being burned in the balloon envelope and was also quite dangerous on a windy day, especially when landing in a dry grassy field.  One can only imagine some of the unfortunate flights and incidents, now lost in history, of burning fields, stampeding livestock and irate farmers.  


  . . . rebirth of hot air ballooning



   On October 10, 1960, Ed Yost lifted off the ground in Bruning, Nebraska in a hot air balloon powered by a propane burner marking the beginning of the modern hot air balloon. Yost had worked with gas balloons for many years in government programs and had attained the knowledge and expertise necessary to develop and expand the science. He founded Raven Industries in 1956 with 3 partners to further the science. Between 1965 and 1968, Ed Yost, with the assistance of Don Piccard and Tracy Barnes, researched and developed hot air balloon designs which were standardized for FAA certification marking the beginning of the hot air balloon industry in the United States. England closely followed with Don Cameron founding Cameron Balloons.

 By 1978, the sport of ballooning had grown from a dozen balloons to about 500. Today, there are over a dozen manufacturers. The United States has over 8000 hot air balloons registered and over 5000 pilots. There are over 3000 balloons in Europe. 

Lesson Plan




Instruction’s Action:

Student’s Action:

Flight Planning

Blast Valve Operation

Layout and Inflation

Launch (Simulated)



Completion Standards

Student should have a general understanding of a balloon assembly and preflight, disassembly and fueling and be aware of what standards will be required to be a competent pilot.


 Objective Elements:


Instructor's Action

Student’s Actions

Completion Standards

FAA Airman's Information Manual

By Mark Bralley
(From lecture at AAAA Crew School)



I = Illness

Do you have an illness that will make you less safe in the job or position you will have while ballooning?

M = Medication

Are you taking some form of medication (prescription or over the counter) that will make it illegal if you pilot the balloon or make you less than 100% in handling your crew position?

S = Stress

Is there stress in your life that will affect the judgment calls you will have to make as a member of the balloon team?


Are you legal? Has it been 8 hours (FAR 91.11) since your last alcoholic drink? Do you have such a hangover that you won't be 100% efficient?

F = Fatigue

How tired are you? Fatigue is described as a depletion of body energy reserves leading to below-par performance. Acute fatigue is short term and chronic fatigue is long term. If needed, would you be able to and act fast enough to avoid an incident and/or accident?


When was the last time you ate? What are you running on and how long will it last?

Any pilot or crew who is not in top condition is severely handicapped. Alcohol is a depressant. If in addition, you happen to be fatigued, hungry, or under stress the handicap will be compounded. Hangovers can be just as hazardous.

Title 14 of the Code of federal Regulations Part 91.11

a. No person may act as a crew member of a civil aircraft

i. Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage,

ii. While under the influence of alcohol, or

iii. While using any drug that affects their facilities in any way contrary to safety.

b. Except in an emergency, no pilot of a civil aircraft may allow a person who is obviously under the influence of intoxicating liquors or drugs (except a medical patient under proper care) to be carried in that aircraft.

If you pass all of these points and can say 'I'm safe', then go out and enjoy the sport and have a safe time ballooning.

Blast Valve Operation




Student’s Actions

Completion Standards


Layout and Inflation




Instructor's Actions

Provide student with complete checklist covering all procedures through lift off

Discuss elements of launch site selections including-

  1. Time of launch
  2. Surface wind
  3. Condition of the field surface
  4. Hazards in vicinity of field
  5. Access to field with landowner approval
  6. Flight planning considerations

Discuss elements of crew briefing including:

  1. Assign and explain “duties to crew” and designate crew chief
  2. Supervise crew activities and Tips for the Crew
  3. Set up means to communicate with crew (Radio and Cell Phone Backup)
  4. Explain flight plan to crew
  5. Lost balloon arrangement

Discuss elements of layout and assembly, visual inspection including:

  1. Use Checklist to assemble balloon
  2. Lay out balloon for direction of surface wind
  3. Configure, put together, basket and install burner
  4. Check all connections and valves for leaks, the Square-Ring
  5. Check fuel supply and pressure
  6. Fire all burners, test all fuel tanks and clear fuel lines safely
  7. Attach inflation restraint securely
  8. Attach envelope cables, temperature cable and vent line
  9. Determine weight and altitude limits
  10. Check basket, documents and instruments
  11. Extra igniters and other required equipment
  12. Final crew briefing
  13. Recheck wind and weather conditions
  14. Note any discrepancy and determine whether the balloon is safe for flight or requires maintenance

Discuss elements of cold-inflation including:

  1. Placement and safety inspection of inflation fan; fuel requirement
  2. Inspect fabric and load tapes
  3. Install top
  4. Cold inflate until envelope is fully packed

Discuss elements of hot inflation including:

  1. Complete walk around inspection
  2. Recheck weather
  3. Use checklist before hot inflation
  4. Rapid and smooth hot inflation
  5. Abort inflation if necessary
  6. As balloon comes to the upright position, all crew weight on
  7. When balloon stabilizes, attach crown line and start checklist for launch

Student's Actions

Completion Standards

Common Student Errors:

The instructor should anticipate the common student errors associated with

a. Launch site selection

b. Crew briefing

c. Layout and assembly

d. Visual inspection

e. Inflation

f. Pre-launch

NOTE: The hot inflation, when done correctly, is a thing of beauty. A fully cold-air-packed envelope, taut envelope cables, the right pressure on the crown line and a well-timed burn by the pilot make the task look easy. Sometimes the conditions make the inflation more difficult. These include a crowded or uneven launch field or variable or high wind conditions. Your student should experience these conditions. Patience is the key to success.

The instructor should do a walk around inspection before the student starts the hot Inflation. He should check the security of the tie-off and the quick release mechanism.

If this is the first inflation for the student, the instructor demonstrates the back step into the basket before the inflation. The student should be warmed to burn only when he is looking at the burner and mouth of the envelope. The mouth should be round not oval from excess crew handling. Sometimes to get the round opening, the throat crew actually has to move towards the center of the throat and not pull away from it.

The instructor positions himself along side the student just outside the uprights on the side with the deflation line. The fan is placed on the opposite side. The instructor crouches down next to the student. Because of the noise of the fan and burner, a positive hand signal is needed to stop a burn. This can be a hand on the shoulder of the student.

Before the pilot light is lighted, a checklist is needed. The purpose is to check the balloon integrity by starting with the inside crown of the envelope and following the envelope rigging to the basket connections. The student extends his/her arm and points to each cable connection and announces secure, deflation line attached, valve secure, cables taut and instrument wire attached. This is the moment when a pilot's concentration is broken due to the excitement of the hot inflation. If you stop for a checklist, it gives the pilot time to think. Now light the pilot light.

The best inflation is a quick one. A half inflated balloon can be troublesome, so a continuous burn is most efficient. If the student stops burning during the inflation prematurely, the envelope will rise with the basket still flat on the ground. At this point, burning the bottom of the throat becomes a possibility. The Instructor will have to lift the up rights to position the burner to continue the inflation.

Having crew lift the uprights is sometimes an indication of a poor inflation. Either the crown line was not held firm enough or the pilot did not burn continuously. A continuous burn will not be harmful to your fabric if the flame is directed to the center of a well-packed envelope.

Students have a habit of taking their eyes off the burner flame when back stepping into the basket as it rises. The pilot should have a continuous, uninterrupted motion from the crouch or kneeling, to standing, to back stepping and into the upright basket position. All this is accomplished without taking your eyes off the round target (the mouth) into which the burner is firing.


Crew Positions and Responsibilities



            Crew Chief

·         Communications between pilot and crew

·         Watches inflation-anticipates problems and instructs crew accordingly

·         May work fan

·         Puts top in-matches Velcro tabs by numbers, aligns Velcro tabs exactly


Crown Line Person(s)

·         Always holds crown line-watches wind

·         Holds balloon down when not completely cold inflated

·         Controls roll of envelope

·         Maneuvers crown lien to basket when told-stay behind basket after connecting crown line to basket

Throat Persons

·         Holds mouth open during cold inflation

·         Connects envelope to basket

·         Pulls envelope out of envelope bag-pulls at load tape/seam junctions only

Fan Person

·         Watches for pilot instructions on adjusting the fan speed

·         Pulls fan away after pilot instructs fan be turned off



Crew Chief

·         Directs launch site pack up

·         Drives or assigns another person to drive

·         Operates radio or assigns another person to operate radio

·         Wind-communicates speed and direction



·         Assign by crew chief

·         Follows balloon and reviews map as the chase progresses

·         Operates the radio


            Chase Crew (includes Crew Chief)

·         Secures all equipment in truck

·         Watches balloons progress

·         Watches for flags, smoke, trees, and other wind indicators



Crew Chief

·         Directs crew-sends crew to assist balloon landing

·         Designates crewmember to get landowner’s permission

·         Directs pack up



·         Stay behind moving basket

·         Weight on when instructed

·         Do not weight-off until instructed UNLESS

·         Clear area of damaging debris

·         Pull crown line to bring balloon down when told

·         Pack envelope

·         Load basket and envelope on truck



















Check List to assemble balloon




























>>>>>HOT INFLATION<<<<<<<<



>>>>>PRE-LIFT OFF<<<<<<<<<<<




>>>>>LIFT OFF<<<<<<<<
















Placement and safety inspection of inflation fan; fuel requirement




The operator of the fan should not wear lose clothes or ties that could tangle in the fan

Always be sure you understand the hand signals of the Crew Chief and/or Pilot

My preference is to place the fan on the left side of the basket
as the On/Off Switch is easily reachable by the pilot during Hot Inflation

On Final Point. The fan needs to be pulled away from the basket after inflation, if not the basket could swing into the fan by wind thus causing the fan to tip over and dump gasoline on the hot engine thus causing a fire

This diagram copied from "The Fireflyer - Firefly Balloon Gazette 2002"


Cold inflate until envelope is fully packed




The operator of the fan should not wear lose clothes or ties that could tangle in the fan

Always be sure you understand the hand signals of the Crew Chief and/or Pilot

Normally I instruct the Fan Person to turn off the Fan as the Bottom of the Balloon lifts off the Ground

This diagram copied from "The Fireflyer - Firefly Balloon Gazette 2002"


Check List for Passengers


You must ask your passengers these questions before launching:


Do you have any physical ailments? If so I will not take you

Dress Recommendations

  1. In winter dress with layers
    • Layers will do fine.
    • No high heels or sandals
  2. In summer
    • Regular casual clothes not loose flowing garments
    • No high heels or sandals

            What can you expect?

Please remember if you come out it does not mean you have to fly. If you do not feel comfortable we can do it another time.  Ballooning is fun not a chore.






·         Methods of Refueling Propane Tanks


     Safety considerations


·         BFA Propane Systems Handbook

·         Propane tank

Instructor’s Actions

 Student’s Actions

Demonstrate knowledge of the properties of propane to include:

Demonstrate the function of component parts of a propane tank

Demonstrate filling propane tanks after a flight

Demonstrate safety factors to include-

Completion Standards

The student will have knowledge of the properties of propane, propane tanks and how their components work.  The student will be able to safely fill a propane tank and recognize the hazards associated with handling propane.  


It is fairly well known that propane is:

Range of Flammability

Properties of Propane

Abnormal Propane Sources


Methods of Refueling Propane Tanks

By Tom Hamilton

With Bleed Valve and Pump
Most balloonists use this method of refueling. You go to the local propane dealer and utilize their pump the same way you would fill your vehicle with gasoline. The bleed valve on top of your propane tank is connected to a dip tube which extends into the tank. The end of the tube is at the 85% capacity level for the tank. When the liquid fuel reaches the end of the tube it spills out the bleed valve telling you that the tank has reached the recommended capacity.

  1. Connect the hose from the fuel source to the main tank valve.
  2. Turn on the pump.
  3. Open the vapor bleed valve, the main tank valve and the fuel source valve. The tank will now begin to fill. Although the sequence of these three events can be modified from this example it is important to establish a consistent procedure. The sequence of events is revered for closing.
  4. When the liquid propane begins to spurt from the bleed valve, close the fuel source, main tank valve, and the vapor bleed valve.
  5. Turn off the pump.
  6. If the fueling line has a bleed valve to discharge the fuel in the connector activate it at this time (newer pumps will automatically bleed when the pumping lever is released). If the system cannot be bleed slowly loosen the connection at the tank. The liquid propane in the line between the main tank valve and the fueling line valve will spurt out and vaporize. When the line is completely bleed you may disconnect the fuel line and/or fueling adapter. Warning: Freeze burns are a hazard during this process so caution should be taken.

By Weight with Pump

Like the prior example you would go to your local propane dealer (or they could come to you with a truck). This time instead of opening the bleed valve and waiting for the liquid to spurt out you fill the tank to a specific weight. As described below the procedure is somewhat more complicated. Since all balloon propane tanks have bleed valves why worry about this method? At least one state, Florida, in the late 80's considered a rule that would require all tanks to be filled by weight. Florida had experienced some problems (not balloon related) where the dip tube, which is screwed in, has come out and fallen to the bottom of the tank. Without this measure the tank will become completely filled before liquid propane comes out of the bleed valve. Read Overfilling Fires... beginning on page 18. Likewise should you suspect that this has happened you can check the accuracy of the bleed valve by using this method to refuel.

  1. Connect the hose from the fuel source to the main tank valve.
  2. Place the tank on a scale.
  3. Turn on the pump.
  4. Open the main tank valve and the fuel source valve. The tank is now filling.
  5. When the tank reaches its full weight, close the fuel source valve and the main tank valve.
  6. Turn off the pump.
  7. Carefully disconnect the fueling line from the tank/adapter as described above.

The full weight for any Department of Transportation (DOT) certified tank can be calculated from information displayed on the tank. The water capacity and tare weight (empty tank weight) will be displayed on the tank. Water capacity is the weight of water the tank holds if it is filled to the brim with water. This is displayed on the tank immediately after the letters WC. Tare weight is shown on the tank immediately after the letters TW.

To calculate the weight of the tank filled, multiply the water capacity by the specific gravity of propane (about .5 at 70 F). Then multiply by .85, since the tank should only be filled to that capacity. This will give you the amount, in pounds, of propane that the tank can safely hold. Add to this the tare weight and you have the total weight when the tank is full (For "10 gallon" vertical aluminum tanks; Full weight = (103.6 x .5 x .85) + 26.5 = 70.5 lbs.).

Bleed Valve and No Pump
This method is sometimes mistakenly called gravity feed. What is actually taking place is an equalization of pressure between two vessels. In this case our propane tank and the main fuel source. The method is used whenever a pump is not available such as a remote sight or transferring propane from one cylinder to another.

  1. Connect the tank to be filled with the fuel source.
  2. Open the bleed valve of the tank to be filled, the main tank valve and the fuel source valve.
  3. As soon as liquid propane starts to spurt from the bleed valve, close the fuel source, the main tank valve and the bleed valve.
  4. Disconnect the fueling line as described above.

This method can be accomplished using either the bleed valve or by weight. Filling a tank by this method will be slow. It works best if the receiving tank's internal pressure can be reduced well below that of the source.

Whenever you are refueling always wear gloves.

Copyright © 1997 Balloon Life. All rights reserved.