Hot air balloons first appeared on the scene in 1783 when the very first one was invented by the Montgolfier brothers of France. The very first hot air balloon flight was taken by a chicken, duck and sheep — and when they survived the flight, the Montgolfier brothers knew they had a winner! Two months later, the first human beings took a hot air balloon flight.
Hot air balloons haven’t changed too much since the 1700’s. They’re still made out of three distinct parts: The burner, the basket, and the envelope. Let’s examine these three components:
- The Burner: The burner supplies the balloon with the hot air it needs to gain altitude. This burner utilizes propane gas kept in cylinders. There is a thin pipe that carries propane to the pilot light, and a thick one that takes propane to a special high-pressure valve. When the pilot opens this valve, it allows the balloon to descend.
- The Basket: The basket is made from wicker, the same material used for patio furniture. Wicker is not a material but the name of a craft that weaves willow branches together to create a basketlike pattern. Wicker is extremely stable, durable, flexible, and able to withstand the impact of landing and absorb some of the shock so passengers are kept as comfortable as possible.
- The Envelope: The envelope is what people think of when they think of a hot air balloon — the large, inflated portion of nylon that comes in bright rainbow colors and patterns. The nylon that the envelope is made from is durable and fireproof, so there’s no chance of the flame used to power the balloon igniting the envelope.
Although the design of a hot air balloon is fairly simple, a pilot must have an advanced grasp on weather, wind, and how to pilot a balloon. A balloon can only be controlled vertically, so the pilot must understand how to use different wind directions at different altitudes to carry the balloon in the proper horizontal direction.
Hot air balloons come in different sizes, and can hold anywhere from two people to twenty, depending on the size of the basket and envelope. If you’re interested in taking a hot air balloon ride, the first step is to find a qualified hot air balloon ride provider. With ballooning a quite popular hobby these days, that shouldn’t be difficult! Simply check your local Yellow Pages or the Internet to find companies in your area that offer hot air balloon rides to suit a variety of tastes and needs. As long as you make sure the company you choose has been in business awhile and has all the necessary credentials, you’re all set for a safe and exciting hot air balloon flight!