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   balloon FAQs

ballooning FAQs
with thanks to Cameron Balloons


  is ballooning safe?
  what goes up.....
  a lot of hot air......
  how do I become a balloon pilot?
  hot air ballooning school
  most balloonists aren't pilots......
  the legal side
  weather you can fly in
  what does it cost?
  can't afford to be a balloonist?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

is ballooning safe?

 

  is ballooning safe?

Statistics suggest the pilot and passengers in a balloon are at no greater risk than the retrieve crew following in a vehicle below.
Those who think standing in a laundry basket under a bag of hot air at 3,000 feet isn't anything to worry about can skip this section. Those who aren't convinced after reading the next few paragraphs that they have a reasonable chance of returning safely to their loved ones following such a flight can skip all the rest!

Statistics suggest the pilot and passengers in a balloon are at no greater risk than the retrieve crew following in a vehicle below. From the safety point of view a balloon flight is equivalent to travelling on an airliner operated by one of the world's major carriers. Perhaps not surprisingly many people who don't like the claustrophobia of an airliner feel quite at home in the basket of a balloon.

And as in an airliner we don't wear parachutes. Neither do we wear seat belts (there usually aren't seats, anyway).

Unlike an airliner there are no complicated electronics to go wrong. In fact there is remarkably little to fail in a balloon and all essential systems are duplicated.

'Can a hot-air balloon go pop, like a child's toy?'
No. It's impossible. In fact the bag containing the hot-air is constructed with a hole larger than a house door at the base so a pin stuck into it, or even a peck from an unfriendly bird, isn't going to cause problems.

Of course fuel is carried in the basket and the burner that heats the air has a powerful flame, but the next chapter - it explains how a balloon works - will answer any fears you may have concerning the integrity of the onboard equipment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 what goes up.....

 

  what goes up.....

Hot-air balloons work on the very simple principle that warm air rises.

Hot-air balloons work on the very simple principle that warm air rises. It rises because heating makes it less dense, i.e. lighter, than surrounding air. If enough warm air is trapped in a lightweight bag then the bag will continue to rise until the temperature of the air inside and outside the bag become roughly equivalent. When it cools it will start a gentle descent.

Prove this yourself by gluing very lightweight tissue paper into a balloon shape. You can heat the air inside by warming it with a small propane blow torch through a hole in the base of the balloon. The size of your balloon will dictate how high it will rise, but take great care because tissue paper is extremely flammable.

Fortunately ripstop nylon, the fabric from which hot-air balloons are built, will not sustain a flame. As the name suggests the material is specially woven with criss-cross reinforcement threads to help prevent tearing. Lightweight and colourful, the fabric can withstand temperatures in excess of 120 deg. C - well above the boiling point of water.

The nylon is cut into panels which are sewn into long strips of fabric called gores. Each panel edge is folded back on itself, interleaved with the next folded edge, and then all four thicknesses of fabric are sewn through twice by machine using a lock-stitch. Tailors call this a French felled seam and it's very strong.

The gores are attached to heavy-duty nylon tapes that pass around the balloon. It's these tapes, rather than the ripstop nylon panels, that carry the loads suspended beneath the air bag, or envelope to use the correct ballooning nomenclature.

At this stage of construction the envelope has large holes top and bottom. The top hole is a valve to vent hot air rapidly when the pilot wants to descend or land. It is plugged by a movable fabric construction that resembles a parachute, and that's the term used to describe it.

Stainless steel flying wires connect the envelope to a frame within which the burner sits on gimbals that allow it to be moved to compensate for any slight deflection of the flame caused by the wind.

As mentioned earlier the hole at the base of the envelope is there to allow the flame from a burner to heat the air without damaging the fabric. Around the hole, or mouth as it is generally known, are panels made from fire-resistant Nomex - the material used in overalls for racing drivers.

Stainless steel flying wires connect the envelope to a frame within which the burner sits on gimbals that allow it to be moved to compensate for any slight deflection of the flame caused by the wind. The flame itself appears only when operation of the blast valve permits a mixture of vaporised and liquid propane to be ignited by a pilot light.

To avoid upsetting animals when flying over the countryside most balloon burners also incorporate a 'Whisper' system which, while being a good deal louder than a whisper, is considerably quieter than the main burner.

More strong stainless steel wires run down from the burner frame to the basket, around and underneath it, then back up to the opposite corners of the burner frame to complete a continuous sling. Inside this sling (in fact there are four of them) sits the basket, woven by craftsmen from cane and willow, a padded edge around the top of suede or leather being one of its few concessions to creature comfort. Other materials, including plastics and aluminium, have been tried as substitutes for basket wicker but they lacked the resilience - and charm - of the traditional material.

Fuel cylinders, tanks of liquid propane gas, normally stand in each corner of the basket, leaving adequate but not generous room for the pilot and passengers. Padded covers surround the cylinders - just in case of a bumpy landing - while rubber- encased armoured pipes carry the fuel up to the burner, which is supported above the basket on flexible nylon rods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 a lot of hot air......

 

  a lot of hot air......

The number of people a balloon can carry depends on its size.

The number of people a balloon can carry depends on its size. At Cameron Balloons we build tiny one-man craft, some of which have a seat instead of a basket, up to monsters that have lifted 50 passengers. We generally say that a particular balloon will carry X people. More accurately we should say a balloon will carry so much weight at such and such a height and such and such an air temperature.

Big balloons tend to be used by commercial operators to carry fare paying passengers while more usual sizes will carry a large advertisement on the envelope plus the pilot and a couple of friends in the basket. More about these commercial considerations later.

Tastes change, but generally speaking the most popular size of balloon is described as a '77'. That's because the envelope holds 77,000 cubic feet (2190 cubic metres) of air. The 77 can often carry four people (depending on their weight!) which makes it ideal for family, club or syndicate use. In particularly warm climatic conditions, especially where the take off site is situated well above sea level, you might need an 84 or a 90 to carry four people. So the size of balloon you choose is dependent on how many people you want to fly, the air temperature and the location.

At Cameron Balloons we have four model ranges to meet all requirements whether for the privately financed competitive pilot or the large commercial operator. Each range is available in many sizes and complete details are given in the balloon envelopes section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

how do I become a balloon pilot?

 

 

  how do I become a balloon pilot?

It takes most trainee pilots between three and twelve months to reach a standard where they can be trusted to fly themselves and their passengers in safety.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hot air ballooning school

 

  hot air ballooning school

The Cameron Italia ballooning school has been active since 1983 in Cueno province, Piedmont, north-west Italy, and has trained many pupils from all over the world. We have BBAC and Italian approved instructors and training is only done on a one to one basis.

The Cameron Italia ballooning school has been active since 1983 in Cueno province, Piedmont, north-west Italy, and has trained many pupils from all over the world. We have BBAC and Italian approved instructors and training is only done on a one to one basis.
Most of the flights will be from Cuneo airport and from Mondovi airstrip.
The pupil may get all the hours needed here and then go to England for the flight test, or we can arrange a flight check here with a UK examiner.
In our region the weather is normally so good that the pupil can log a lot of hours in a few days with very low hotel cost.
The average training day has two flights of two or three hours.
Once a pupil has got his ppl and needs to log all the hours for the CPL, he can fly with one of our balloons, under the supervision of one of our pilots.

Giovanni Aimo, who runs the school, is fluent in English and has around 5000 hours as a P1 in hot-air balloons, gas balloons and hot-air airships. He has been Italian champion 4 times and has taken part, since 1982, in most of the world and european ballooning championships.
For more information please visit the Cameron Italia Ballooning School website >www.mongolfiera.com<

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

most balloonists aren't pilots......

 

  most balloonists aren't pilots......

In fact active pilots represent something under 25% of the membership. When you know more about the sport the reasons become understandable...

It may be surprising, but most members of the British Balloon and Airship Club are not pilots. In fact active pilots represent something under 25% of the membership. When you know more about the sport the reasons become understandable...

To launch our average 77 requires four people. When the envelope is laid out on the ground two hold the mouth of the balloon open while the pilot operates the burner. The fourth, called the Crown Crew, holds a rope attached to the top of the balloon to prevent the envelope from moving into the vertical position too quickly.

When the balloon lifts off the pilot and one or two of the ground crew will fly with it while the remainder follow in the retrieve (sometimes called chase') vehicle.

It's coincidence that in the above example the pilot is 25% of the team, the same percentage that pilots represent in the BBAC, but you can see that it's very possible to be involved in ballooning, enjoying the flying and the social life - even to own a balloon - without having to be a pilot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the legal side

 

  the legal side

There are remarkably few legal restrictions to balloon operations. As mentioned above you need a knowledge of Air Law to gain a pilot's licence but United Kingdom law does not require that a balloon operated privately has a Certificate of Airworthiness (C of A). However, Cameron Balloons strongly recommend that a C of A is applied for with each new balloon and that the craft is examined every year by an authorised British Balloon and Airship Club inspector. It costs very little and brings peace of mind.

Hot-air balloons operated commercially must have a C of A.

Neither need a balloon to be insured, but the BBAC recommends carrying third party insurance cover of 500,000 and it is usual to insure passengers against accidental injury and the balloon itself against theft or damage. Pilots should advise their life insurance companies that they intend to take part in ballooning, though because of the good safety record a premium loading is unusual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

weather you can fly in

 

  weather you can fly in

You won't often see a balloon airborne at lunch time. Why?

You won't often see a balloon airborne at lunch time. Why? Because the heat of the sun will have warmed the ground, the ground in turn will have warmed the adjacent air, and nature will have produced its own massive and invisible hot-air balloon (invisible until these thermals, as they are known, rise above condensation level and turn into puffy cotton wool cumulus clouds).

It's very uncomfortable to be caught in a thermal when flying in a balloon because you can't stop your ascent and may reach an altitude of thousands of feet.

Nature also abhors a vacuum, so where the thermal breaks away from the ground local breezes spring-up as surrounding air moves in to equalise the pressure. The result is unpredictable takeoff and landing conditions. Occasionally weak winter sun conditions do allow all-day flying but as a rule balloons prefer the gentler airs of early morning and evening, before the thermals start or after the have finished for the day.

If you think about it a balloon is very similar to a yacht, the envelope acting in the manner of a sail without a mast. With a breeze behind it the envelope can exert a force of several tons and, while sophisticated devices are available to tether the craft to a heavy vehicle or handy tree, it is obviously more sensible not to try and fly when the wind is too strong.

A belt of trees can often be found that will shelter the balloon from the wind during the inflation and takeoff phase, but good pilots remember what goes up must come down - and there may not be any shelter to drop behind when the balloon lands.

Rain is also best avoided. Moisture adds significant weight to the envelope in flight while a balloon packed away wet may suffer from mould and mildew.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

what does it cost?

 

  what does it cost?

You can buy a balloon for around 10,000. Just like the basic model in a car range it won't have ABS, CD player, sun roof and Air Conditioning! But it will fly you and your friends in safety.

You can buy a balloon for around 10,000. Just like the basic model in a car range it won't have electric windows, stereo radio, sun roof and gold coach-line! But it will fly you and your friends in safety.

Adding extras adds cost, and complicated artwork on the side of the envelope can also be expensive. A talk with the sales staff at Cameron will give you an idea of the cost of turning your beautiful balloon idea into a beautiful reality.

Once you own your balloon running expenses will vary depending on usage. Allow 15 to 20 per flying hour for fuel and maintenance costs plus a sum to cover annual insurance premiums. That's not a lot of money 'per person flown' when you remember that every time the balloon flies during the year it can be carrying up to four people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

can't afford to be a balloonist?

 

  can't afford to be a balloonist?

You can! It's not a rich man's sport.

You can! It's not a rich man's sport. But not everybody wants to sign a large cheque followed by a series of smaller cheques, and it's not necessary. Many balloons are operated by syndicates. Four, six, eight or even more people get together and split the capital and running costs. Remember, it takes several people to operate the balloon on each flight so the whole syndicate can be involved on a regular basis. Whether you can get all the members to agree on the colour scheme for the balloon in the first place is another matter!

As a private individual or syndicate balloonist the only pressures as to when and where you fly are your own. If you are prepared to sacrifice some of that freedom then your ballooning could cost very little or even nothing at all. Sponsorship is the reason.

Your sponsorship may be no more than agreeing to carry banners at a show, or for a specific period of time, on your private balloon. The revenue can help substantially with your running costs. However complete sponsorship could cover all your costs. Approximately 75% of all UK-registered hot-air balloons carry advertising. Names of many of the largest companies in the world adorn the envelopes of balloons not simply because it's advertising that's difficult to miss but because it's advertising people don't want to miss. Members of the public will drive miles out of their way for a close-up look at a balloon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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