On September 19, 1783, brothers Etienne and Joseph Montgolfier launched the first hot-air balloon passengers- a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. Flights with humans soon followed. People had long dreamed of taking to the skies, and now it was possible.
Exciting and peaceful at the same time, a hot-air balloon ride will give you the opportunity to rise above your fellow man. Be prepared for spectacular views and an unforgettable experience. As Leonardo da Vinci said himself, “For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”
Step 1: Balloon Terminology
While it is true that learning about hot-air balloons is not required to have an enjoyable flight, knowing what is going on around you will increase the level of enjoyment. It is possible that you may be asked to help prepare the balloon for flight or help pack it up. You may want to ask intelligent sounding questions to the pilot or crew. Here is a list of some of the most commonly used ballooning terms:
Bag: A large canvas bag used to store the balloon envelope.
Basket: Usually made of wicker, the basket is the carriage that holds the passengers, fuel, and flight equipment. Sometimes called a gondola.
Burner: The device that converts liquid propane to vapor and burns the vapor to heat the air in the balloon envelope. Sometimes called a heater.
Chase Vehicle: A vehicle used to track the balloon and bring crew to the balloon landing site.
Crew: The hardworking individuals that prepare the balloon for flight, track the balloon, and help retrieve the balloon after landing.
Cold Inflation: Initial inflation process where the balloon is filled with ambient air with the use of an inflator fan.
Crown Line: A cord or rope attached to the top most portion of the balloon. Used to help stabilize the balloon during inflation and deflation.
Deflation Line: A red or “candy-cane” colored rope which is used to control the deflation port.
Deflation Port: Usually a parachute-like structure at the top of the balloon that is used to release excess hot air. Used to allow the balloon to descend or to empty the balloon of air.
Drop Line: A rope connected to the basket that allows ground crew to control the balloon from the ground.
Envelope: Often made of rip-stop nylon, the Envelope is the fabric “balloon” part of the balloon.
Fuel Tanks: Fuel tanks sit in the basket and supply propane to the burner.
Inflation Fan: A powerful fan used to ‘cold inflate’ the balloon.
Mouth: The opening at the base of the balloon where the air is blown in during inflation, and where the air is heated during flight.
Skirt: Flame retardant cloth descending from the balloon mouth to limit distortion of the burner flame caused by breezes.
Tethers: A flight option where the balloon is anchored to the ground in such a way that the balloon can ascend and descend, but cannot travel horizontal distance.
Tie Off: A rope that anchors the basket and balloon to the chase vehicle. The tie off keeps the balloon secure in case of a sudden breeze during inflation.