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Ballooning/Aviation Terms


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Can I take a camera?
Yes, there is no problem in taking either a still or video camera with you during the flight. A hot air balloon makes a perfect camera platform and there is always plenty to photograph prior to, during and after to the flight. We do recommend, however, th
AFSS (aka Automated Flight Service Station)
An air traffic facility that provides pilot briefings and numerous other services.
A doughnut-shaped packing, usually rubber, used between two moving parts to act as a seal. Balloon heater and tank valves usually have O-rings between the valve stem and valve bonnet.
14 CFR Part 103
Part 103 - Ultralight Balloons
False Lift (aka Uncontrolled Lift)
Lift that occurs without specific action by the pilot. Often referred to as false lift.
A "D", or "O" shaped locking metal clamp used to connect things together (in particular, load cables to baskets, or tie-off lines to retrieve vehicles). The metal connection points (often used in climbing although ballooning tends to use the stronger and
PTS (aka Practical Test Standard)
Book containing areas of knowledge and skill that a person must demonstrate competency in for the issuance of pilot certificates or ratings.
The pilot is given two markers. After a certain minimum distance he drops the first, then after a further minimum distance, the second. The score is the greatest change of course between the two legs of the flight, measured in degrees.
Adjective used to describe a noncombustible material that cannot be destroyed by fire.
FSDO (aka Flight Standards District Office)
Field offices of the FAA, which deal with certification and operation of aircraft.
The actual weather report at a given time.
Nylon, Rip-stop
The material that makes up most of envelope.
The widest diameter of the envelope.
Variometer (aka V, VSI, Vertical Speed Indicator)
An instrument that continuously records the rate at which an aircraft climbs or descends. Usually measured in FPM. A required instrument in a balloon.
The threads in a piece of fabric that run the length of the fabric.
Pull Test
A strength test in which a section of envelope fabric is pulled to a definite pound measurement to determine if it meets the certification requirements for airworthiness.
Refers to fuel drawn from the tank in a liquid form for some types of burner valves which is then vaporized in the burner coil before igniting on the pilot light.
Commercial Aircraft Operator
A person who, for compensation or hire, engages in the carriage by aircraft in air commerce of persons or property. (14 CFR part 1)
Touch-and-Go Landing
An operation by an aircraft that lands and takes off without stopping.
Are balloons used for things other than fun?
Balloons have been important in science as they have helped us study the weather and the atmosphere.
A colorless and odorless gas. Ethyl mercaptan is added to propane to give it a detectable odor. Propane weighs 4.2 lbs. per gallon.
Can I smoke in or around a hot air balloon?
It's not advisable because of the possibility of propane fires or explosions from leaks, although leaks are extremely rare. The balloon fabric can also be damaged by a stray spark or hot ash. There is a strict non-smoking rule at most balloon festivals.
Where balloons really used during the civil war?
Yes. Hydrogen balloons were used by both armies for airborne observations.
Required Equipment
Equipment that must be aboard an aircraft, as required either by the FAA or balloon manufacturer, to maintain airworthiness.
What if I'm afraid of heights?
Flying in a high sided balloon basket is not like standing in a roof or a high ladder. You don't get that vertigo feeling. It is more like the ground is unfolding beneath you, and, because you are moving with the wind, there is no wind blowing. The basket
Scoop (aka Envelope Scoop)
A specialized-shape skirt which, on American balloons, narrows to an inch or two on one side and widens to extend all the way from the top of the poles to the base of the envelope proper, forming a tilted mouth. The idea of the scoop is to provide better
A thin synthetic added to the surface of balloon fabric to lessen porosity and ultraviolet light damage.
Fly-in Task (aka CNT)
The balloons and crews go out from the contest field by a certain minimum distance, usually 5km and choose their own take-off point to fly back from. They take-off in a field (after asking the landowner's permission) and fly back to drop their marker on t
How does a hot air balloon differ from a gas balloon?
A hot air balloon gets its lift from heating the air with propane fuel. A gas balloon gets its lift from lighter than air gases, usually heliun or hydrogen.
Common usage for recent flight experience. In order to carry passengers, a pilot must have performed three takeoffs and three landings within the preceding 90 days. In order to carry passengers at night, a pilot must have performed three takeoffs and thre
Drag Line
A gas balloon term used to describe a large, heavy rope, deployed at landing, which orients the balloon (and rip panel) to the wind, and transfers weight from the balloon to the ground, creating a landing flare.
Force An apparent force acting on the parcel of air due to the Earth's rotation, in the northern hemisphere the air is deflected to the right and in the southern hemisphere the air is deflected to the left.
How high do balloons fly?
Most balloonists enjoy low level flight. The typical balloon flight would be anywhere from tree level to about 3,000 feet above the ground.
Use, cause to use, or authorize to use aircraft, for the purpose of air navigation including the piloting of aircraft, with or without the right of legal control (as owner, lessee, or otherwise). (14 CFR part 1)
Anabatic Wind
Warm air flowing up hill as the sun has heated up the mountainside surface.
The science of lighter-than-air flight.
Absolute Altitude
The actual distance between an aircraft and the terrain over which it is flying.
Area of high pressure on a weather chart, with characteristics of very stable air and light winds, generally good for ballooning.
Type Certification
Official recognition that the design and operating limitations of an aircraft, engine, or propeller meet the airworthiness standards prescribed by the Code of Federal Regulations for that particular category or type of aircraft, engine, or propeller.
How far will we fly depends on the wind speed. Hot Air Balloons travel with the wind and an hour flight can carry it up to 15 miles, sometimes more, sometimes less. The balloon also flies at different altitudes. Although the balloon is at the mercy of the wind whe
These are thrown at the targets and must be a streamer of specific weight balloon nylon. It has to be 170cm long, 10cm wide and be weighted with 70g of sand. They are usually brightly colored to assist with location once thrown from the balloon.
14 CFR Part 21
Part 21 - Certification Procedures for Products and Parts
All preparations, including gathering information, assembly, and inspection performed by the pilot before flight.
14 CFR (aka Code of Federal Regulations)
The United States Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government.
Light Aircraft
Any aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of less than 12,500 pounds. All presently FAA-certificated balloons are light aircraft.
Navigation by visual reference to landmarks.
This is a term that should hopefully be fairly familiar! To become a balloon pilot requires a minimum of 16 hours flying instruction, a check flight with a CAA appointed examiner, a solo flight and various ground examination papers. These examinations con
The basket perhaps needs little explanation!
A gray or white parasite fungus which, under warm, moist conditions, can live on organic dirt found on balloon envelopes. The fungus waste materials attack the coating on the fabric.
Regional pressure setting corrected at sea level - adjusting an altimeter to this setting should indicate height above sea level. (nb - to find out height above ground level you can use the map and work out a spot height or an global positioning system (a
Initially Balloons without any Passengers were sent up.
First animals of all sorts were used for experimenting like a sheep, rooster, and duck sent high up.
Ground Crew
Persons who assist in the assembly, inflation, chase, and recovery of a balloon.
What were the first animals to fly a balloon?
Animals of all sorts were used for experimenting like a sheep, rooster, and duck, to be sent high up.
Altimeter Setting
The station pressure (barometric pressure at the location the reading is taken) which has been corrected for the height of the station above sea level.
A condition of the envelope fabric that allows hot air to escape. Excessive porosity requires increased fuel use and results in higher envelope temperatures.
Before starting to prepare the balloon for flight, the pilot should consider the balloon loading (passengers and fuel), the weather and the flight area to determine suitability for flight.
Not functioning or not working.
Barnes Basket
A triangular shaped basket used primarily on Balloon Works balloons. Named after its originator, Tracy Barnes. Popular in America - but not here as there's nowhere to put your fourth tank.
Step Descent
A method of allowing a balloon to lower toward the ground by reducing the altitude, leveling-off, and repeating the step, to lower the balloon in increments rather than one continuous motion.
Crown Line (aka Apex Line, Top Handling Line)
A line attached to the top of most balloons to assist in inflation or deflation. Also called crown line or top handling line.
Why don't balloons fly in the middle of the day?
Balloons fly early in the morning, right after sunrise and late in the day, right before sunset. This is when the wind is calmest since the sun is low in the sky.
(1) Of balloon envelopes, stuffing the envelope into its storage bag after a flight. (2) Of balloon cold inflation, filling the envelope nearly full of cold air with a very large fan.
The propane metering orifice of a balloon heater where fuel exits to be ignited during a burn.
Wind Sock
A long, tapered cloth tube, open at both ends, mounted on an elevated pole, and allowed to pivot. The large end is supported and held open by a circular ring and points toward the wind.
Determine neutral buoyancy of a gas balloon or airship by taking weight off at launch.
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
Founded 1905 by the Comte de la Vaulx as the world governing body for airsport.
A gas balloon term, superheat occurs when the sun heats the gas inside the envelope to a temperature exceeding that of the ambient air, resulting in expansion of the gas.
Commercial Pilot
A person who, for compensation or hire, is certificated to fly an aircraft carrying passengers or cargo.
BTU (aka British thermal unit)
A measurement of heat. The amount of heat required to raise 1 pound of water from 60 to 61 °F.
Where will we land?
Good question! The simple answer is that nobody knows, exactly! The pilot will have done flight planning before the launch to ensure that the forecast wind direction does not take the balloon towards an unsuitable area. S/he will use the different air cur
A record of activities: flight, instruction, inspection, and maintenance.
Oxygen Starvation
The condition inside a balloon envelope where all available oxygen has been consumed by the heater flame and additional burning is impossible since propane must have oxygen to burn. In extreme cases, the blast flame and pilot light flame will extinguish a
14 CFR Part 23
Part 23 - Airworthiness Standards: Normal, Utility, Acrobatic, and Commuter Category Airplanes
Non-Destructive Testing
Tests or inspections that when properly performed, will not damage the component or system being tested.
Ground Visibility
Prevailing horizontal visibility near the earth's surface as reported by the United States National Weather Service or an accredited observer. (14 CFR part 1)
When was the first balloon flight?
The Montgolfiers sent up a balloon with two men in it. It traveled over Paris for 5.5 miles. It stayed up 23 minutes.
A piezoelectric spark generator that is built into many modern balloon heaters to ignite the pilot light.
Wind Shear
A strong and sudden shift in wind speed or direction, which may be either vertical or horizontal. Wind shear should not be confused with normal wind change, which is gentler. Wind shear is often associated with the passage of a weather front, or a strong
Essential to fly and operate a balloon. Be nice to your crew as they are the ones who will come and get you after the flight.
A column of rising air associated with adjacent areas of differing temperature. Thermal activity caused by the sun's heating usually starts 2 to 3 hours after sunrise.
A type of support that allows a compass or gyroscope to remain in an upright position when its base is tilted.
Orographic Winds
wind formed by mountains.
Total field of aviation operations other than military and air transport (airlines). The branch of science, business, or technology that deals with any part of the operation of machines that fly through the air.
Gloves, boots and willingness
Gloves, walking boots and the willingness to get up early are the most important pieces of equipment for new people into ballooning : Sturdy leather gloves for handling ropes, fabric and basket are best; Flat lace up boots provide good ankle support and a
The difference between true and magnetic North. Remembered by: Variation west, magnetic best; Variation East, magnetic least. W Warm front Characteristics are 500 to 600 miles between the ground edge and the sloping into the sky edge, high cirrus clouds d
Repairman Certificate
An FAA certificate issued to a person who is employed by a repair station or air carrier as a specialist in some form of aircraft maintenance. A repairman certificate is also issued to an eligible person who is the primary builder of an experimental aircr
14 CFR Part 1
Part 1 - Definitions and Abbreviations
Instructions for Continued Airworthiness
A manual published by an aircraft manufacturer specifying procedures for inspection, maintenance, repair, and mandatory replacement times for life-limited parts.
Neutral Buoyancy
A condition wherein a balloon is weightless and is neither ascending nor descending.
Burner (aka Heater)
Device used to ignite and project flammable fuel (usually propane gas) up into the envelope to heat the air in a hot-air balloon. Burners come in a variety of configurations and powers (which are measured in BTUs, usually in the millions).
An aerostat where the pilot sits in a chair or harness underneath the envelope, as opposed to standing in a basket. Hesitation Waltz Competition where multiple judge declared goals are set.
Equilibrium at launch is typically that temperature at which after the balloon has been inflated and is standing up (erect), the ground crew is able to hold the balloon in place by resting their hands lightly on the basket. When lift equals gravity as in
AC (aka Advisory Circular)
An FAA publication that informs the aviation public, in a systematic way, of nonregulatory material.
Weather rock
Any smooth stone thrown at the weatherman when he tells you it's going to be unflyable again.
Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Construction on the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum in the purported balloon capital of the world started in October 2002. The museum is scheduled to open to visitors during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October
Crown Ring
The ring of metal at the top of the envelope to which all the load tapes are attached.
Tensile Strength
The strength of a material that resists the stresses of trying to stretch or lengthen it.
Above ground level
Next Required Inspection
An annual inspection, or 100-hour inspection, as appropriate.
Master Tank
The propane tank, usually tank number one, that offers all appropriate services, such as liquid, vapor, and backup system.
Nautical mile
1 Nautical Mile = 1.15 statute (normal) miles = 1.85 kilometers.
Thumbs up
The signal from a launch director that the airspace above is clear and you have permission to launch. Any digit other than the thumb means something entirely different.
Situated to the south west of London, Brooklands race track was a magnet for both automobile and aviation enthusiasts before 1914. A museum now houses replicas of A.V.Roe's first machine, a Demoiselle, a Blériot XI and a 3/4 size Voisin. Click on 'Aviatio
Cremation Charlie
Some one who sacrifices himself during a flap inflation to stand inside the envelope and hold it up so that no valuable rip-stop gets burnt.
14 CFR Part 47
Part 47 - Aircraft Registration
How long does it take to learn to fly and carry paid passengers?
Balloon pilots need a commercial pilot's license (fixed-wing). They must have at least 35 hours of flight instruction, attend ground school for basic aviation training, pass a written test for hot-air balloons and have a flight check from a Federal Aviati
An instrument used to measure the velocity of moving air.
Airman Knowledge Testing Centers
This is an updated and revised list of computer testing designees and computer testing centers.
ATIS (aka Automatic Terminal Information Service)
Continuous broadcast (by radio or telephone) of recorded noncontrol, essential but routine, information in selected terminal areas.
First Flight
A great little site created by the Open University, with interactive virtual reality models of early aircraft. -
IFR Conditions (aka Instrument Flight Rules)
Weather conditions below the minimums allowed for flight under visual flight rules. (14 CFR part 1)
How do balloons avoid airplanes?
According to the FAA, balloons must meet air-traffic control requirements if they are in a controlled air-space, and pilots must have radio contact with controllers.
Short for 'Pilot Under Training".
Spatial Disorientation
AWOS (aka Automatic Weather Observing System)
Continuous broadcast (by radio or telephone) of weather conditions at selected locations.
Quick Release Mechanism
Used to restrain the balloon during inflation and heating for take-off, but should not be used for tethering.
Cumulonimbus Clouds
Are thunderclouds and are likely to generate lightning, hail and fierce convection currents. When the cloud reaches very high levels it is composed of ice crystals which tail off in the upper wind, This is then known as the anvil.
The pre, during and post flight informative and safety instructions.
Inflator Fan
Hot air can't be directly put into the envelope it first has to be filled with cold air using the inflator fan. Only then can this air be heated using the burner. Before fans, the balloon had to be flap inflated.
The time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in the American Air Almanac and converted to local time.
Drop Line
A rope or webbing, which may be deployed by the pilot to ground crew to assist in landing or ground handling of a balloon.
A generic term for an aerostat. A lighter-than-air aircraft that is not engine driven, and that sustains flight through the use of either gas buoyancy or an airborne heater.
Nitrogen Charging
A technique of adding nitrogen gas to propane tanks to increase fuel pressure. Used in place of temperature to control propane pressure in hot air balloons during cold weather.
Are there many balloon accidents?
Accidents are rare, especially in the Northwest. The only serious injuries for the area -- found in a check of National Transportation Safety Board balloon accident reports back to 1984 -- were a broken leg and a broken ankle, both from rough landings.
Superpressure Balloon
(1) A type of hot air balloon which has no openings to the atmosphere—the mouth is sealed with a special skirt—and is kept pumped full of air (at a higher pressure than the atmosphere) by an on-board fan. Used on moored balloons to allow operations in rel
14 CFR Part 141
Part 141 - Pilot Schools
Flap Inflation
Before the days of inflator fans, the only way to get cold air into the envelope prior to turning on the burner was to flap the top side of the mouth up and down. Once a small amount of air had been put inside the envelope, the pilot would periodically bu
Who can fly a balloon?
The Federal Aviation Administration issues a Balloon Pilot Certificate to candidates who pass an FAA written examination, obtain a prescribed number of hours in a balloon, make a solo flight to altitude, pass a flight test, and submit a medical statement.
I sometimes get airsick in airplanes. Is a balloon the same?
No. The turbulence which usually causes motion sickness is completely absent in a balloon ride. The flight of a balloon is almost too smooth to describe.
The advance report of the likely weather conditions at a given time in the near future e.g. 12 hour/24hour based on the trend of the weather and our knowledge of variables affecting the weather.
Crew Chief
A crewmember who is assigned the responsibility of organizing and directing other crewmembers.
In ballooning, when the balloon is zero weight and is neither climbing nor falling.
A display of tethered balloons that takes place in the dark, when pilots turn the burners on, the balloon envelopes glow like huge lanterns..... this although not very good for the life of a balloon can look wonderful, if all the pilots operate their burn
Passenger flights
Paying passengers book a weather dependant, flight with a company that sells balloon flights (aka local tourist information for operator details) included in the usually hour long flight, is a champagne celebration at the end of the flight. All passengers
S/N (aka Serial Number)
A number, usually one of a series, assigned for identification.
14 CFR Part 31
Part 31 - Airworthiness Standards - Manned Free Balloons
Sensitive Zone
A restricted operation zone where balloon launchings and landings may be allowed by the landowner under special circumstances. In some cases, a minimum altitude restriction may also exist.
The portion of the balloon which holds the heated air (for hot-air balloons) or gas for gas balloons. Constructed of cloth such as ripstop nylon or nomex, or other light, relatively impermeable material.
How many hot air balloons are there?
There are over 3,500 balloons and 4,000 licensed pilots in the U.S. There are another 1000 or so balloons in other countries.
How much do balloons cost?
About the same as a car or boat. The most popular sport size balloons cost from $18,000 to $25,000 or more. Support equipment (radios, fan, extra tanks, tools, repair kit, etc.) adds from $2,000 to $ 5,000 more. You can also buy used balloons.
Captive Balloon
Commonly used to describe a balloon that is permanently anchored to the ground.
14 CFR Part 65
Part 65 - Certification: Airmen Other Than Flight Crew Members
What is that section of fabric of the top that lets out air called?
A Parachute is placed right at the top of each Hot Air Balloon.
Load Calculation
Before each flight the all up weight must be calculated, and a check made to ensure that this does not exceed the available lift, otherwise the envelope can easily be overheated.
Fuel Tanks (aka Fuel Cylinders)
The fuel tanks or cylinders are tanks of liquid propane gas. They normally stand in the corner of the basket leaving room for the pilot and passengers. Padded covers surround the cylinder - just in case of a bumpy landing - while rubber encased armored pi
How old do you have to be to fly a balloon?
To obtain a Private Pilot Certificate in the USA you must be 16 years old. And would you believe that there are balloonists flying in their 80's!
Katabatic Wind
Cool wind flowing down the mountainside before the sun has heated up the surface.
Are balloons quiet?
No, ballooning is not a silent sport. There are some quiet moments, but those burners are noisy.
Load Tapes
Reinforced vertical seams along the length of the envelope, connected by the load cables to the basket. The actual load-bearing parts of the envelope.
Commonly known as low pressure or a low, associated with horrible rainy and stormy weather with warm and cold fronts.
How tall are balloons?
Depending on the weight capacity, balloons may be as tall as 100 feet.
Maintenance Release
A release, signed by an authorized inspector, repairman, mechanic or pilot, after work has been performed, stating that an aircraft or aircraft part has been approved for return to service. The person releasing the aircraft must have the authority appropr
If the long strips are called gores, what are the smaller pieces of fabric called?
Smaller pieces of the gore are called panels.
The branch of science that deals with flight and with the operations of all types of aircraft.
What is a balloon basket made of?
Woven wicker is used because it is lightweight, flexible and easily repaired. It also looks nice!
The bottom, open end of a hot air balloon envelope. Also called "throat."
How long do balloons last?
Depending on the care it is given, a balloon envelope may last 500 or more flying hours. Considering that most sport pilots fly from 35-75 hours a year, balloons do last a long time.
14 CFR Part 105
Part 105 - Parachute Jumping
Special shape balloons
Hot-air balloons manufactured in the shape of products and not the natural round traditional shape.
Local, National and International competitions which are run, with rules organized by the British Balloon and Airship club and the FAI - Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
Indicated Altitude
The altitude shown on a properly calibrated altimeter.
Cold Inflation
Forcing cold air into the envelope, giving it some shape to allow heating with the heater.
This is the small conical section of cloth that hangs from below the main envelope and runs halfway around the envelope. Its purpose is to direct the hot air into the main envelope and protect the jet from the prevailing breeze. It also helps to pressuriz
Small Aircraft
Aircraft having a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less. All currently type-certificated balloons are small aircraft.
Past 3D
A collection of stereoscopic early aviation pictures. You will need 3D glasses (or a piece of red perspex over one eye and green over the other.) Text is in French.
Wind Direction
Wind direction is always expressed by the direction the wind is coming from.
The last flight maneuver by an aircraft in a successful landing, wherein the balloon's descent is reduced to a path nearly parallel to the landing surface.
Operation of an unmanned balloon secured to the ground by lines or controlled by anything touching the ground. aka 14 CFR part 101.
How do you get back to where you started?
A chase crew follows along in a van or truck. The chase crew is in radio contact with the pilot, so they can be there when the balloon lands (or soon afterwards).
Cold front
The cold front is a much more vertical start to it with the cold air pushing into the warm front sector, with heavy showers and large cumulonimbus clouds.
How long does it take to inflate and deflate the balloon?
A good ground crew can inflate and launch a balloon in fifteen minutes or less. It takes about the same amount of time to deflate and pack up the balloon after the flight.
VHF (aka Very High Frequency)
The frequency range used for air/ground voice and navigational facility communications.
What are the baskets that hang from balloons made of?
Because weight is critical in balloon flying, the baskets are made of light materials such as wicker, fiberglass or aluminum.
The upkeep of equipment, to include preservation, repair, overhaul, and the replacement of parts.
How are balloon pilots licensed?
Balloons are registered like any other aircraft and are subject to regular airworthiness checks. The FAA will not allow a balloon to be certified as airworthy unless these inspections and checks are done by authorized maintenance personnel and certified b
Yellow zone (aka sensitive zone)
"A statement that, as part of a pilot certificate, sets forth special conditions, privileges, or limitations." (14 CFR part 1)
Restricted Operations Zone
A land area on or over which balloon operations are restricted by the landowner. Also referred to as a prohibited zone (PZ) or a sensitive zone (SZ).
The FAA Administrator or any person to whom he or she has delegated authority in the matter concerned.
Why is the basket made of wicker?
The wicker basket has proven to be very strong for its weight and is flexible. The wicker is sometimes woven around a steel or aluminum frame, which helps to support the upright posts upon which the burner is mounted. The top rim of the basket and the upr
What fuel do hot air balloons use, and where is it carried?
Propane is used for fuel. It is carried in aluminum or stainless steel tanks that range from 10 to 20 gallons in size. Average fuel consumption is about 15 gallons an hour.
A statute mile is 5,280 feet. A nautical mile is 6,076 feet.
Fabric Test
Testing of the envelope fabric for tensile strength, tear strength, and/or porosity. Fabric tests are specified by each balloon manufacturer.
Pilot Light
A small, continuously burning flame used to ignite the main "blast" flame of a balloon heater.
The force of a moving body that tries to keep the body moving at the same direction and speed. The momentum weight of the average hot air balloon is nearly 4 tons.
NOTAM (aka Notice To Airmen)
A notice containing information concerning facilities, services, or procedures, the timely knowledge of which is essential to personnel concerned with flight operations.
How long does it all take?
From start to finish, your adventure will last about 3 hours. The inflation and preparation of the balloon normally takes about 30 minutes. The flight itself normally takes around one hour. After the flight, the ceremonies take about 30 minutes and travel
The Aeronauticum specializes in German airship and naval aviation. The museum is located near Cuxhaven, near the coast, 30 km West of Hamburg. Follow the Anfahrt link for a location map. Also has an unofficial site.
What are the best conditions for flight in a balloon?
A balloon flies better in cooler weather since the hot air gets a better "lift." Balloonists usually fly just after dawn or before dusk, because there is less wind at these times.
Prohibited Zone
A restricted operation zone where balloon launchings and landings are prohibited by the landowner. In some cases, a minimum altitude restriction may also exist.
Restricted Area
Airspace of defined dimensions within which the flight of aircraft is restricted in accordance with certain conditions.
A light, inert gaseous chemical element mainly found as a natural gas in the southwestern United States. Used to inflate gas balloons and pilot balloons.
AD (aka Airworthiness Directive)
A regulatory notice sent out by the FAA to the registered owner of an aircraft informing him or her of a condition that prevents the aircraft from meeting its conditions for airworthiness. Compliance requirements will be stated in the AD.
Flight Review
Required for all certificated pilots every 24 months in order to retain pilot in command privileges. A flight review consists of at least 1 hour of flight training and 1 hour of ground training.
Orographic Clouds
The name for clouds caused by the air being forced to rise by high ground. P Padded Covers The Padded covers provide protection to the fuel cylinders for transportation and for when they are being removed from the basket for refueling.
The registered trade name for polyester fabric developed by DuPont.
Vent Line (aka Red Line)
Refers to a line which activates the deflation panel of a balloon, or the maximum envelope temperature allowed, or the maximum on a gauge.
How do you light the burners?
Usually with a striker similar to that used by welders to light their welding torches. Some burners have built-in piezo-electric ignitors. Once lit, a pilot light keeps the fuel burning.
Overtemp (aka Over Temperature)
The act of heating the air inside a hot air balloon envelope beyond the manufacturer's maximum temperature.
Drag Landing
A high-wind landing where the balloon drags across the ground after the deflation panel has been opened.
What are the FAA safety requirements for passengers in a balloon?
There are no official safety requirements for passengers, but passengers should know with whom they're flying and their qualifications.
A vertical section of fabric, often made of two vertical, or numerous horizontal panels, sewn together to make a balloon envelope.
Charles' Law
If the pressure of a gas is held constant and its absolute temperature is increased, the volume of the gas will also increase.
Commonly used in ballooning for altitude measurement (altimeter), to display climb and descent rate (variometer) and to indicate envelope internal temperature (thermistor). Isobar Lines of equal pressure on a weather chart. Isotherm Lines of equal tempera
What should I wear when I go ballooning?
Balloonists dress like hikers: Pants, sturdy flat shoes and layers of shirt, sweater, jacket, for example. Carry cameras and lots of film.
How do you steer a balloon?
Balloons simply float with the wind. The pilot can control the balloon's altitude to find a wind going in the desired direction, but you cannot fly upwind or crosswind. Preflight planning insures the pilot knows which way the balloon will be traveling, an
The lightest of all gaseous elements. Commonly used in Europe for inflating gas balloons. Flammable by itself and explosive when mixed with oxygen. As opposed to helium, hydrogen is easily manufactured.
An occurrence other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft, which affects or could affect the safety of operations.
Surface Wind
Measured in knots and degrees in the direction it is coming FROM at about tree top height and this takes into account the friction of the wind over the Earth's surface which will reduce the effect of the coriolis force. T Tasks Each separate flight during
Why is the angle of the sun important?
The sun is the source of wind, because it heats the earth unevenly. Sunlight falls directly on the equator, for example. The North Pole receives weaker, slanted rays of sunlight. Clouds may keep one area cool while another heats up. Water and land heat up
Airfield pressure - adjusting an altimeter to this setting would read HEIGHT above the airfield at that pressure setting.
What should I wear?
You should wear whatever you feel comfortable in. There is really no need to dress up. You should wear the type of clothing that you would expect to wear if you be going for a walk the day of the flight. A light jacket is sometimes comfortable in the fall
Parachute Top (aka Cooling Vent, Deflation Panel, Parachute Valve, Rip Panel)
A panel at the top of the balloon envelope that is deployed at landing to release all hot air (or other lifting gas) from the envelope. A parachute top is a form of deflation panel.
Judge Declared Goal
Competition where a single target is set and all the balloons fly from the launch site with the aim of dropping their markers as close as possible to the goal.
Pressure Relief Valve
A device in a propane tank designed to release excess pressure—which may be caused by overfilling, overheating, or excessive nitrogen pressurization—to prevent tank rupture.
(1) As used with respect to the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of airmen, means a broad classification of aircraft. Examples include: airplane; rotorcraft glider; and lighter-than-air; and (2) As used with respect to the certificatio
Can balloons fly at night?
Yes, although balloonists seldom do because of decreased visibility and the requirement for instruments and lights. Most balloons are certified for day flying only.
Maintenance Manual
A set of detailed instructions issued by the manufacturer of an aircraft, engine, or component that describes the way maintenance should be performed.
Burn (aka Blast)
A common term meaning to activate the main blast valve and produce a full flame for the purpose of heating the air in the envelope.
NTSB part 830
Rules Pertaining to the Notification and Reporting of Aircraft Accidents or Incidents and Overdue Aircraft
Chase Crew
The crew that chases the aerostat - more frequently known as the retrieve crew.
A lighter-than-air craft. A hot-air balloon is an aerostat. A device supported in the air by displacing more than its own weight of air.
Ambient Air
Air surrounding the outside of a balloon envelope.
A welding striker, piezo sparker, matches, or other means used to ignite the balloon pilot flame.
Blast Valve (aka Throttle Valve)
The valve on a propane burner that controls the flow of propane burned to produce heat.
Traffic Pattern
The traffic flow that is prescribed for aircraft landing at or taking off from an airport.
What if you have to go to the bathroom?
Pre-planning is the key! Since flights average about an hour or so, pre-planning pays off in this regard. There are no bathrooms aboard the balloon.
CNT (aka Convergent Navigational Task)
A ballooning event where pilots attempt to fly from a designated distance to a single point, usually a scoring 'X'. Also known as Controlled Navigational Trajectory Event, or a Fly-In task.
The inadvertent extinguishing of a burner flame.
When air ascends it expands and cools and if sufficiently moist a cloud will form. Visible clouds are of several recognizable types depending on the process of their formation.
How large are hot air balloons?
Most balloons are larger than your house. They hold from 19,000 to 211,000 cubic feet of air and loom from 50 to 90 feet.
The lower portions around the opening look different, what is it?
The skirt helps direct the hot air into the balloon. They are usually made from a fire resistant material like Nomex, similar to what race car drivers and firemen wear to protect them from flames.
Turning Vent (aka Rotator Vent)
A vent on the side of a hot air balloon envelope which, when opened, allows escaping air to exit in a manner causing the balloon to rotate on its axis.
Type of balloon that uses both gas and hot air.
14 CFR Part 145
Part 145 - Repair Stations
Terminal Velocity Descent
A term used by balloonists for the speed obtained when the balloon is allowed to fall until it apparently stops accelerating, at which point the envelope acts as a parachute and its vertical speed is no longer affected by its lifting gas, but only by its
What is a gore?
Each long section of the Hot Air Balloon is called the gore.
(1) As used with respect to the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of airmen, means a classification of aircraft within a category having similar operating characteristics. Examples include: single-engine; multiengine; land; water; gyrop
A device for measuring. Required gauges on a hot air balloon are the envelope temperature gauge (pyrometer) and the fuel quantity gauge for each fuel tank. Most balloons also have fuel pressure gauges. General
Precipitation that falls from a cloud and evaporates before reaching the ground.
What instruments do balloons use?
An altimeter to indicate altitude, a variometer showing its rate of climb or decent, a compass to show directions, and a temperature gage to show how hot the fabric is at the top of the balloon. Each propane tank has a fuel gauge, and the burner has a fue
To terminate an operation prematurely when it is seen that the desired result will not occur.
First Flight Ceremony
Those who have endured it need no explanation. Those who have not should know that its origins are cloaked in mystery and shrouded in the most sacred rites of ballooning. Suffice it to say that the ceremony involves various liquid refreshment (usually cha
A relative location approximately at right angles to the longitudinal axis of an aircraft.
Balloonists use a combination of aeronautical charts which show controlled airspace (airports and flight paths) and military airspace as well.
Prohibited Area
Designated airspace within which the flight of aircraft is prohibited. (14 CFR part 1)
Temperature Recorder
A small plastic laminate with temperature-sensitive paint dots that turn from white or silver to black, to record permanently the maximum temperature reached.
14 CFR Part 61
Part 61—Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors
How does the chase crew know where we are?
Radios are used to stay in contact with the chase crew as well as with Air Traffic Control and other aircraft flying in the vicinity.
Flight rules governing aircraft flight when the pilot has visual reference to the ground at all times.
The lowest broken or overcast layer of clouds or vertical visibility into an obscuration.
Time in Service
"With respect to maintenance time records, means the time from the moment an aircraft leaves the surface of the earth until it touches it at the next point of landing." (14 CFR part 1)
A device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air.
When did the first people fly in Hot Air Balloons?
The Montgolfier Brothers invented the manned Hot air balloon in France in 1783. They sent up a balloon with two men in it. It traveled over Paris for 5.5 miles. It stayed up 23 minutes.
Cirrus Clouds
A high cloud, often the first warning of an approaching depression.
How is the balloon inflated?
When the time comes to put the balloon up, the envelope is removed from the bag and laid out in a long line. The burners are attached to the uprights, and the basket is attached to the cables on the bottom of the envelope. An engine driven fan is used to
Grab Test
A test, as specified by balloon manufacturers, to determine the tensile strength of envelope fabric.
The state of having no pores or openings which will not allow gas to pass through. New hot air balloon fabric is nearly nonporous.
Verb: "to vent" is the action of opening the vent to cool the air in the envelope. Noun: an envelope opening that will automatically close.
NOTAM (aka Notice To Airmen)
A notice containing information concerning facilities, services, or procedures, the timely knowledge of which is essential to personnel concerned with flight operations.
Volume (aka Capacity)
The total amount of air or gas (expressed in cubic feet) contained in a balloon envelope.
Do you need a licence to fly a balloon?
Yes. A Balloon Pilot Certificate is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration in the USA. You must pass an FAA written exam, obtain a prescribed number of hours of instruction, make a solo flight, a flight to a specific altitude and pass a flight test
Controlled Airspace
Airspace designated as Class A, B, C, D, or E within which air traffic control service is provided to some or all aircraft.
The person, business or organization which holds the title to the property upon which the aerostat launches and/or lands. Landowner Relations Extremely important for aerostat activities, especially considering the limited control over landing location. Id
Nautical Miles Per Hour (aka Knot )
1 Knot = 1.15 statute (normal) miles = 1.85 kilometers.
What happens if a bird flys into a balloon?
It would likely bounce off! The envelope fabric is much tougher than it might appear. It is possible to fly a balloon with a hole large enough for a man to go through as long as the hole is not at the top of the envelope.
Balloon Flight
This takes place with the wind as a balloon cannot steer its own direction, although it can adjust it's height to within a meter or so. Therefore much planning, must go into a flight to ensure that there is a safe route and landing place for the balloon d
Deflation Vent (aka Cooling Vent)
A vent, in the side or top of the balloon envelope, that opens to release hot air, and that closes after the release of air automatically.
CPL (aka Commercial Pilot's License)
Pilot's License An extra license, involving more practical and theoretical examinations (most of them are the same as fixed wing passenger pilots) required to enable you to charge for your services as a pilot.
Also referred to as the "recovery" or more frequently "retrieve"; the process by which the aerostat is tracked during flight and retrieved afterwards by crew on the ground or in another craft (like a boat).
Return to Service
A certificated mechanic or authorized inspector must approve an aircraft for return to service after it has been inspected, repaired, or altered. In addition, an aircraft that has been modified must be test flown by an appropriately certificated pilot bef
Do balloons wear out?
If well taken care of, a balloon envelope should last approximately 500 flying hours.
This single thing that cannot be organized or planned in advance, However, balloonists can receive very up-to-date weather reports and forecasts.
A type of alcohol, usually fermented from wood, required by most balloon manufacturers to be introduced into propane tanks annually to adsorb, and thus eliminate, small quantities of water from the fuel.
Centripetal Force
Force generated as the air goes around the curves in the air.
Pressure Gradient
This is the force responsible for starting a parcel of air moving. Air moving from high to low pressure.
Why do flights take place so early in the morning?
Balloons need stable winds to operate effectively and the hours just following sunrise are the best for finding these winds. Since balloons move with the air, the weather is very important in deciding to whether or not to fly. The pilot chooses a launch s
Pibal (Pilot Balloon Observations)
A small helium-filled balloon sent aloft to help determine wind direction, velocity, and stability.
Pilot declared goal
A similar task to the judge declared goal, except that the pilot declares his own goal by writing on a slip of paper and handing it in to the officials before take-off.
A person who operates or travels in a balloon or airship.
Flight Visibility
The average forward horizontal distance, of an aircraft in flight, at which prominent unlighted objects may be seen and identified by day and prominent lighted objects may be seen and identified by night. (14 CFR part 1)
PIC (Pilot in Command)
The pilot responsible for the operation and safety of an aircraft during flight.
Metering Valve
A valve on a balloon heater that can be set to allow propane to pass through at a specific rate.
14 CFR Part 101
Part 101 - Moored Balloons, Kites, Unmanned Free Balloons and Rockets
Approved by the FAA Administrator or person authorized by the Administrator.
Restrictions placed on a balloon by its manufacturer. Examples are maximum envelope temperature and maximum gross weight.
ATC (aka Air Traffic Control)
Fan (aka inflator fan)
PPL (aka Private Pilot's License)
The 'driving' test required to operate and fly a hot-air balloon consisting of both practical and theoretical examinations which vary slightly from country to country. This license is not generally restricted to the local region or country although there
Repair Station
A facility where specified aircraft and their parts may be inspected, repaired, altered, modified, or maintained. FAA approval is issued to a facility upon qualifications specified by the local FSDO.
MSL (aka Above Mean Sea Level)
If you need this it usually means you've gone drastically wrong somewhere.
Preventive Maintenance
Simple or minor preservation operations and the replacement of small standard parts not involving complex assembly operations.
Flight Time
The time from the moment the aircraft first moves under its own power for the purpose of flight until the moment it comes to rest at the next point of landing. (14 CFR part 1)
What kind of fuel is used for the burners?
To heat the air, the burners are fueled by propane gas, much the same as you probably use in your backyard barbecue grill. The burners do not run continuously; they are only used intermittently to heat the air to maintain the required lift.
Refers to the fuel drawn from the tank in a gas form for some types of burner valves although this should never be used for the main valves which are designed to use liquid propane.
Hydrostatic Testing
A method of testing propane cylinders wherein the cylinder is filled with water and pressurized.
An occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, and in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or in
The registered name for a polymer fabric. Most balloon envelopes are made of nylon.
How many people can balloons carry?
Area balloon operators can carry from two to 10 passengers at a time, depending on balloon size.
14 CFR Part 39
Part 39 - Airworthiness Directives
14 CFR Part 91
Part 91—General Operating and Flight Rules
Is it cold in a balloon?
At high altitude, it is colder than at ground level, generally 3.5 degrees colder for each 1,000 feet of altitude.
Why don't balloons fly in the rain?
Hot air balloons don't fly in the rain because balloon heat can cause water to boil atop the balloon, and boiling water destroys the fabric.
14 CFR Part 43
Part 43—Maintenance, Preventative Maintainance, Rebuilding, and Alteration
Any small hole in a balloon envelope smaller than the maximum dimensions allowed for airworthiness.
Operation of a manned balloon secured to the ground by a series of lines.
Magnetic North
A compass shows magnetic North which points slightly to one side of the northerly direction, measured in degrees magnetic.
Nimbostratus Clouds
A lower thicker layer of cloud. Often produces long and steady rain at the warm front. O Official Observers These are specifically trained volunteer balloonists who are responsible for inspecting, verifying and providing evidence for both competition and
Balloon Explorium
A non-profit educational children's museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico, dedicated to explore the wonders of ballooning through hands-on learning.
Balloons can be sponsored as can competitions and record attempts in return for publicity; good examples of this is the Swiss company sponsored Breitling Orbiter 3 - the successful round the world balloon or in Germany the Warsteiner balloons sponsored by
14 CFR Part 67
Part 67 - Medical Standards and Certification
What are the ropes for?
The crown line on top of the balloon is used to stabilize the balloon during inflation. "Tether lines" are used to tie the balloon down for display purposes. A "drop line" is sometimes released by the pilot just before landing so the ground crew can pull
Archimedes' Principle
The Greek mathematician's principle of buoyancy, which states that an object (a balloon) immersed in a fluid (the air) loses as much of its own weight as the weight of the fluid it replaces.
Rapid Descent
A relatively fast loss of altitude. A subjective term, but usually meant to describe a descent of more than 500 FPM.
An area of land or water that is used for the landing and takeoff of an aircraft.
How is the balloon basket attached to the balloon?
It has flying wires made of steel or kevlar cable to attach the basket to the balloon.
Cumulus Clouds
Heaped cloud associated with convection. Typical summer convection will generate a sky with regular patterns of fair-weather cumulus and if these grow bigger they become towering cumulus and may give rain showers.
14 CFR Part 45
Part 45 - Identification and Registration Marking
Can balloons fly over mountains?
Yes. However, there are some special problems: If you come down in an area where there are no roads it is difficult to get the balloon out Also, mountain winds are sometimes very turbulent.
Tether Line/Ropes
Perhaps one of the most important extras to come with a balloon! This is used when anchoring the balloon to the ground (to large vehicles) for balloon displays or nightglows when the balloon is fully hot-inflated but is required to stay on the ground.
Fire-resistant material that the scoop and bottom section of the envelope are made of. Poles The stabilizing struts between the basket, the burner mount and the load cables. On some balloons the poles are actually load-bearing elements; on others they sim
Partitioned Baskets
A basket with wicker walls to proved compartments inside the basket to separate the passengers from the pilot who also has all the fuel cylinders. Which predominantly is to increase comfort for the passengers.
Who controls ballooning and ensures safety standards?
The Federal Aviation Administration controls ballooning with the same strict regulations that apply to airplanes.
Positive Control
Control of all air traffic, within designated airspace, by air traffic control. (14 CFR part 1)
Certificate of Airworthiness
Like an M.O.T. for a balloon. A balloon as to be regularly checked to make sure the fabric isn't getting too weak, the basket isn't unraveling etc. If your balloon's ok you get one of these and are allowed to fly.
An aircraft part whose service is limited to a specified number of operating hours or cycles. For example, some balloon manufacturers require that fuel hoses be replaced after a certain number of years.
Ammonia (NH3)
Type of balloon that uses ammonia as its lifting agent instead of helium, hydrogen or coal gas. Becoming very popular in 1990's. Much less costly than flying other gasbags. Has approximately .5 lifting power of helium. Popularized by Tim Cole and Dennis B
Bowline Knot
A common knot that is easy to tie and untie and will not slip.
Pyrometer (aka Temperature Gauge)
The thermometer system, required in all type-certificated hot air balloons, that gives a constant reading of the inside air temperature at the top of the envelope. May be direct reading, or remote, using a thermocouple or thermistor connected to a gauge i
What are the differences between gas and hot air balloons?
A gas balloon is completely enclosed and is filled with helium or hydrogen. A hot air balloon gets its lift from heating the air within it. The Breitling Orbiter, which flew non-stop around the world in 1999, was a combination gas and hot air balloon.
How old do you need to be to go in a balloon?
Children under 5 usually aren't allowed.
IFR (aka Instrument Flight Rules)
Rules governing the procedures for conducting instrument flight. Also a term used by pilots and controllers to indicate type of flight plan.
What kind of cloth is the balloon made of?
The colorful envelope is usually made of Rip-stop nylon, polyester, dacron, and taffeta the same type of cloth that parachutes are made of. It is very tightly woven and is coated with a material that makes it very air tight. The basket load is transferred
This is an identifiable point from which measurements can be made. If possible the target should be clearly visible from the air. Gradient Wind Measured in knots and degrees in the direction it is coming from considered to be over 2000ft above ground leve
Measured in knots and degrees in the direction it is coming FROM. e.g. 270 degrees is a wind going towards the East...
Rigging/Basket wires (aka Flexible Suspension, Suspension Lines)
Balloon basket suspension consisting of steel or fiber cables without rigid structure.
The engine or device that propels an airplane, airship, or rotorcraft. The term does not apply to balloons, which are considered to be unpowered aircraft.
A large triangular-shaped wind indicator mounted on a pivot so it can swing free and point into the wind. Usually found at airports.
How do we get back to the launch field or the hotel?
The balloon is followed by a chase vehicle and the crew. They are in constant contact with the balloon pilot by radio and should be at the landing site at the same time as the balloon. Once the balloon is packed away (and the ceremonies are complete) the
True North
The actual north according to calculation measured in degrees true.
Are all hot air balloons alike?
All hot air balloons consist of a burner system, a basket and an envelope. The differences are in the shape and size of the envelope, the deflation system, the basket shape and design and the configuration, design, and number of burners.
Commercial Balloons
Balloons operated by paid pilots flying advertising or special shape balloons for their clients. It involves not only traveling from show to show on "the circuit" taking corporate clients for flights morning and evening, tethering balloons during the day,

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