Balloons - all you could want to know!

There's just something that makes you stand and stare - but who invented them and how do they stay in the air?

Here are a few fascinating facts and figures...

  • The first untethered manned flight was made by Jean-Francoise Pilatre de Rozier and Francoise Laurent d'Aralndes in a hot air balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers on 21st November 1783, in Paris.
  • 1967 saw the first modern-day hot air balloon built in the UK - the Bristol Belle.
  • A conventional hot air balloon consists of  the envelope which contains the heated air and beneath it a basket which as well as carrying passengers supports the propane burners, used to heat the air.
  • The hot air inside the envelope, as it has a lower density than the cooler air outside, makes it buoyant, so up it goes!
  • Balloons are usually made of rip-stop nylon with the fabric at the mouth (closest to the burner flame) being made from Nomex whcih is fire retardant.
  • The envelope is made of panels of material sewn together and structural load tapes added to carry the weight of the basket.
  • Each envelope can comprise anything from 4 to 24 or more gores - sections of material that run from the mouth to the top or crown.
  • An envelope usually has a crown ring at the very top - which the vertical load tapes attach to.
  • There's usually a vent at the top of the envelope  - this allows hot air to be released to slow an ascent, start a descent, or increase the rate of descent, usually for landing.
  • Balloons like other forms of transport have to be maintained according to strict schedules with regular 100 flight hours/12 month inspections.
  • Hot air balloon envelopes can usually be flown for between 400 and 500 hours before the fabric needs to be replaced.
  • You can buy a basic hot air balloon for around £15,000, and it'll cost you £30-£40 an hour to fly.
  • To pilot a hot air balloon in the UK you have to hold a valid Private Pilot's License specific to ballooning, issued by the Civil Aviation Authority - a PPL(B).
  • Cameron Balloons of Bristol are the largest manufacturers of hot air balloons in the world.

Find out more about Balloons over Basingstoke...