Air Balloon FAQS - Question and Answer Page
If you're a complete beginner to the
entire ballooning experience, there's a world to learn about this
beautiful way to fly.
Preparing for flight
The balloon is prepared by spreading the envelope (the big fabric
portion) out on the ground, with the basket attached to it and
lying over on its side. A gasoline-powered fan is normally used
to inflate the balloon with cold air until it is packed full,
and then the propane burners are ignited to heat the balloon up.
At this point, the balloon will slowly stand up, and then it's
the ground crews' job to hold the basket down with their collective
weight while the pilot continues his preflight checks and boards
passengers. When all is ready to go, the pilot gives his crew
the signal for "weight off," and with a few more blasts
of the burner, takes to the sky!
So, how does all this work?
Basically, a balloon flies because the air inside the envelope
is hotter than the air outside (known as ambient air). Although
some people prefer more technical explanations, it really is that
simple! The burners heat the air inside and allow the pilot to
control the rate of ascent & descent. When it's time to come
down, the pilot can either let the air in the envelope cool off
on its own, or he can open a vent at the top of the balloon to
let some air out - either way works. When it's time to land, the
pilot will open the deflation port all the way to spill the air
out the top and deflate the balloon. The balloon will then lay
on its side and patiently wait to be packed up by the pilot and
Lots of Balloons!
Who can fly a Balloon?
Well, anyone can fly in a balloon, but to fly one you must become
an F.A.A.-licensed balloon pilot :)
How do I become a pilot?
First "Official" thing to do is to apply for a Student
Pilots' certificate which is needed to be able to make your solo
flight and later flight tests with an examiner. To be a student
pilot, you must be at least 14 years old and understand the English
language, among other minor things.
You might have already received and logged some ground and flight
instruction at this point, but if not, what are you waiting for?
The next phase is to find an instructor willing to teach you.
Any commercial balloon pilot in the U.S. has the privileges of
acting as balloon flight instructor, so there will be a number
of pilots to help you get on your way.
Training involves at least 10 hours of flight instruction, passing
a written knowledge test, extensive ground instruction, and finally
passing a flight examination with an F.A.A. inspector (also known
as a Practical Test). Pass that, and you'll be granted your Private
Pilot's Certificate for Hot Air Balloons!
A private pilots' certificate allows you to take passengers up,
but to be able to operate for hire, you must earn your Commercial
hot air balloon pilots' certificate. This involves at least 35
hours of flight time and a much more stringent and demanding flight
How can I get involved?
Easy! Find a balloon pilot near you and give him or her a call
or email. Most pilots will be delighted to have you come out and
get involved the next time they go flying. The more help, the
ME UP AS CREW! !
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