Do You Know How Hot Air Balloons Work?
Do You Know How Hot Air Balloons Work?
You’ve always been curious about balloon rides, but do you know how hot air balloons work? In this post, we’re revealing the science behind hot air balloons.
Keyword(s): how hot air balloons work
For all those thrill seekers out there, taking a ride in a hot air balloon probably sounds like a blast. Those of us that are more skeptical though wouldn’t think about getting into that contraption without learning a bit more about how hot air balloons work.
It may sound scary to those that are afraid of heights, but a hot air balloon ride is rumored to be one of the most peaceful experiences out there.
Maybe riding in a hot air balloon is on your bucket list, but you’re a bit hesitant because you are wondering just how hot air balloons work.
Look no further. We have all the facts about hot air balloon travel: how they work, how to steer, and most importantly how to land!
Keep reading for all the fun facts on how hot air balloons work.
History of the hot air balloon
In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers were the first to figure out how a hot air balloon works.
The two men sent a sheep, chicken and a duck flying over France for a full eight minutes! It took a couple years for them to develop a hot air balloon that is very similar to those that are in use today.
As for fuel, they were not using propane, they were burning straw, manure and other material in an attached fire pit as fuel.
Types of hot air balloons
There are two different types of hot air balloons.
The most common type of hot air balloon. This type uses fire to heat up the air inside the balloon to get it to life off of the ground.
You know that trademark blowtorch noise you hear when a hot air balloon is near? That is a Montgolfier balloon.
The hybrid balloon uses hot hair in the same way but it also has a compartment of helium and hydrogen gas at the top.
Hybrid and gas balloons are the most common types because they require less fuel and can stay in the air for extended periods of time.
Parts of the hot air balloon
A modern hot air balloon is made up of a number of different parts that contribute to how hot air balloons work.
The envelope is a fancier name for the balloon itself. This part is typically made of nylon which is sewn together in squares to stop rips and tearing. Nylon is used because it is a light, durable, and synthetic fabric.
The squares of nylon are sewn together very tightly in long, vertical patterns to keep air from leaking.
The envelope has holes at the top and the bottom.
The hole at the top is referred to as the parachute vent.
The parachute vent can be opened using a cord. Opening it will cause hot air to escape from the envelope and the balloon will descend.
The hole at the bottom is referred to as the throat.
The throat is located directly above the burners and reinforced with a skirt of fireproof material to keep it from melting or burning.
As mentioned above, the main component to how hot air balloons work is, in fact, the hot air!
The burner is generally one or more gas jets, fueled by propane cylinders. Some balloons only have one burner but it is common to have more than that. You can think of the burner as the engine of the balloon.
For safety, extra fuel is carried within the basket.
Typically, the passengers in a hot air balloon will be traveling in a wicker basket.
The baskets are almost always made of wicker because it is durable and light. Wicker is also a bit flexible so it can absorb the impact of landing.
The basket is attached to the envelope by strong metal cables.
Hot air balloons have a minimum and maximum in regards to the weight that they can carry and the basket sizes come in quite a range.
So, this is how hot air balloons work
Simply put, hot air balloons run on the philosophy that hot air rises and cold air sinks. When the air inside the balloon is heated, it becomes warmer than the air outside and therefore is lighter.
This is what causes the balloon to become airborne.
Now that we know how the balloon goes up and down, how does it steer?
In order to obtain horizontal movement, the pilot must move the balloon up and down to catch different wind currents. The direction of the wind varies at different altitudes. Due to this factor, going up and down will also change the horizontal movement as well.
Of course, there is no foolproof way to follow wind patterns so the pilot is never in complete control. This may be why sometimes you hear horror stories about hot air balloons winding up in trees.
Hot air balloons rarely take off and land in the same place unless they are tethered to the ground. This is due to the fact that it is very difficult to predict their path.
Launching and Landing
The launching process only takes about fifteen minutes from start to getting off the ground.
Once a suitable location for launch has been found, the envelope is laid out and the crew begins inflating it with a fan.
After inflation, the burner and basket are attached and away you go!
The landing process is a bit more time-consuming.
When the pilot is ready to land they will need to find a landing site that is a wide open space with no power lines and space to lay out the balloon.
The balloon landing can be a little rough but an experienced pilot will know exactly what to do. Typically they will bump along the ground to stop the balloon and decrease the force of the impact.
Once the envelope is on the ground, the team begins pushing the air out and laying it flat. After it is totally flat, the balloon gets packed up for next time!
Now you know how hot air balloons work. So, what’s next? Are you going to head out there and go for a ride or do you feel safer on the ground? At least now you have all the facts to make an educated decision!