You may be curious and want to learn more about hot air balloons.
The best way to see the magic of ballooning is to go there yourself.
Join one of our pilots to take to the skies with our famous giant red balloon and enjoy stunning views of the Great British Country.
We love seeing the science in action and having our pilots answer any questions while you float in the air. It is the best way to learn about hot air balloons.
Check out our selection of flight vouchers, which include options for all budgets. Then, read on to discover the ‘techie bits’ below.
What is a HOT AIR BALLOON?
Hot air balloons are a unique flying craft that works by hot air rising. There are two types of hot-air balloons. Both were invented in the late 18th Century and are still in use today.
WHAT ARE HOT AIR BALLOONS ABOUT?
To gain lift, the more popular ‘Montgolfier type’ uses heat to heat the balloon’s air. A hybrid balloon uses hot air similarly but has a compartment of hydrogen or helium at the top. The third type is a pure-gas balloon, which does not use hot air. The altitude can only be controlled by dropping ballast and venting the gas.
Because they use less fuel, hybrid and gas balloons can be used to achieve long-distance records. International Gordon Bennett Cup: Pilots from all over the globe compete in gas balloons.
Our Virgin hot air balloons all use the Montgolfier type. We will explain this below.
What are the portions of a HOT AIR BALLOON?
These are the essential components of a modern hot-air balloon:
Balloons and Envelopes
A balloon, also known as an ‘envelope,’ is a bag of fabric made from strong, lightweight nylon. It has an opening at one end called “the mouth.”
Before a flight, the envelope is placed on the ground and is partially inflated with cold air from high-powered fans. Then the air is heated using the burners to create the lift needed.
The size ranges from 77,000 cubic feet (called a “77”) to 600,000—cubic feet (called a “600”). Our Virgin balloon ‘400’, over 120ft tall once it’s inflated, is the giant passenger balloon in the UK.
Envelopes have been traditionally inverted teardrop shapes like ours. However, some brands use hot air balloons with unique conditions for advertising purposes. The majority of balloons have vents at the top and sides. This allows the pilot to let out the air or turn the balloon using specific ropes.
Baskets for Hot Air Balloons
The bottom of the envelope holds the balloon basket that carries passengers. It is connected to it by solid metal cables. Baskets are made of reinforced steel frames and clad with woven wicker, both traditional and robust.
The size balloon baskets can hold up to 24 people and range from two people to large. Hot air balloons can carry 10-16 passengers. They are roughly the same size as a large boardroom table. The minimum and maximum loading capacities of balloons are established.
Large balloon baskets are often rectangular and can be divided into three to four comfortable compartments, which offer a spectacular view for everyone. The basket’s surfaces are covered with smooth leather. There are also foot holes on the sides of the basket that allow passengers to climb in and out. Our Virgin balloon baskets often have bench seats that can be used to land.
Hot Air Balloon Burners
The burner is the engine of the balloon. The burner is attached to a metal frame placed above the basket and below the mouth of each envelope. The burner ignites liquid propane mixed from the pressurized gas tank with oxygen. The pilot pulls a small valve to ignite the burner. The flame is directed into the balloon’s mouth by the pilot.
Two burners are used to heat our balloons. One lets propane out slowly, making it quieter. This “whisper burner” is used to fly over residential areas or livestock.
The heat shields are placed below the burners to prevent them from getting too hot. However, we recommend wearing a hat.
WHAT DO HOT AIR BALLOONS DO?
Because hot air rises, hot air balloons work. The balloon’s air becomes lighter by heating it with a burner. The balloon will float upwards as though it were in the water. The balloon will slowly fall if the air cools. Pilots can exert much control over the balloon’s altitude, which they monitor using various instruments. They can anticipate and control the balloon’s descent with incredible accuracy.
Hot Air Balloon Pilot
Balloons can’t be controlled in the usual sense of the term. They travel in the direction that the wind blows at different altitudes. This is how pilots change direction. They either burn the air to go higher or allow it to cool down.
Turning vents on the balloon’s side can be used by pilots to rotate the balloon 360 degrees. This allows for a panoramic view of the sky and allows the basket to lead to landing.
Hot Air Balloon Landing
Hot air balloons, like helicopters and planes, are not designed to land at predetermined locations. It is impossible to steer them in the same manner as planes and helicopters. That’s why they are always exciting! After about an hour of flying on a passenger flight and seeing a safe area, the pilots land the balloon.
All passengers are asked to kneel in a seated position by the pilot. The pilot opens the vent at the balloon’s top to let the hot air escape as the balloon approaches the ground.
Sometimes, the basket may tip slightly when it touches the ground. This is normal and safe. This is how balloons have been landing for more than two hundred years. Modern balloon baskets can be used for this purpose. Most people enjoy the thrill after a relaxing hour in the clouds.