Breezy Rider

 “Get all fired up over Science”



Student Manual

2008 School Year

Version I



Questions and Answers about Hot Air Balloons

What are hot air balloons made of?

The bag-or envelope, as it's more properly called-is made of a reinforced fabric called rip-stop nylon.


How is the balloon inflated?

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.


What are the baskets made of?

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


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?

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 or as slow as the wind.


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.


How high do balloons fly?

Most balloon flights occur between 500 and 1,000 feet above the ground. But balloons can fly at treetop level or go much higher. .


How long can it stay up?

It depends. Normally, the balloon carries enough fuel to remain aloft for 2 hours, but factors like outside air temperature, weight being carried in the basket, and weather determine the duration of the flight.


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


How do you get it back?

With the help of friends who drive a van or pickup truck and follow the flight of the balloon (as well as the existing roads allow) and should be on hand to make the recovery and pack-up when the balloon touches down.




Hot Air Ballooning History


The Montgolfiere Balloon


Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier, paper mill owners, were trying to float bags made of paper and fabric. When the brothers held a flame near the opening at the bottom, the bag (called a balon) expanded with hot air and floated upward. The Montgolfier brothers built a larger paper-lined silk balloon and demonstrated it on June 4, 1783, in the marketplace at Annonay. Their balloon (called a Montgolfiere) lifted 6,562 feet into the air.

Montgolfier Gas

At the time, the Montgolfiers believed they had discovered a new gas (they called Montgolfier gas) that was lighter than air and caused the inflated balloons to rise. In fact, the gas was merely air, which became more buoyant as it was heated.

First Passengers

On September 19, 1783, in Versailles, a Montgolfiere hot air balloon carrying a sheep, a rooster, and a duck flew for eight minutes in front of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the French court.


First Manned Flights

On October 15, 1783, Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis d'Arlandes were the first human passengers on a Montgolfiere tethered balloon.   The balloon was attached with a 250 foot rope.


On November 21, 1783 De Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes flew, un-tethered, to 500 feet and traveled about five and a half miles in a 20-minute flight, the first 'free flight' made by man.

On January 19, 1784, a huge Montgolfiere hot air balloon carried seven passengers to a height of 3,000 feet over the city of Lyons.

In 1785 the French balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries become the first to fly across the English Channel.

In 1793, Jean Pierre Blanchard lifted off from the Walnut Street Prison Yard in Philadelphia, beginning the hot air balloon craze in America.

Rebirth of hot air ballooning (Modern Day 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.




Crew Positions and Responsibilities during Inflation


            Pilot (Crew Chief)

·         Communications between pilot and crew

·         Watches inflation-anticipates problems and instructs crew accordingly

·         Puts top in-matches Velcro tabs by numbers


Crown Line Person(s)

·         Always holds crow line-watches wind

·         Holds balloon down when not completely cold inflated

·         Controls roll of envelope

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

Throat Persons (2)

·         Connects envelope to basket

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

·         Holds mouth open during cold inflation

Fan Person

·         Watches for pilot instructions on adjusting the fan speed

·         Pulls fan away after pilot instructs fan be turned off







Lesson plan based on Balloon Federation of America, Educational Publications, Flight instructors Manual, First Edition 1983 – second Edition 1995, used with permission Mr. Ray Bair of BFA.


Questions & Answers used with permission of Bill Armstrong, Publisher