Lighter than Air America

Modern Day Hot Air Ballooning …

 
How does a balloon fly ?
As air inside the balloon is heated, it rises. Essentially, hot air is lighter than cool air, because it has less mass per unit of volume.

A cubic foot of air weighs roughly 28 grams (about an ounce). If you heat that air by 100 degrees F, it weighs about 7 grams less. Therefore, each cubic foot of air contained in a hot air balloon can lift about 7 grams.

That's not much, and this is why hot air balloons are so huge. To lift 1,000 pounds, you need about 65,000 cubic feet of hot air. As the air inside the balloon cools, it descends.

Can the pilot steer the balloon ?
Winds determine a balloon’s direction. Balloonists can steer a balloon, to a limited extent, by adjusting the balloon’s altitude (up or down) to make use of different wind speeds and directions at different altitudes (heights) in the sky.

How long does a balloon flight last ?
No two flights are exactly alike because a pilot never knows where he will land when he/she takes off. They can be as short as five (5) minutes or as long as two (2) hours.

What fuel powers the burner in a balloon ?
A hot air balloon is powered by propane. The same stuff Mom and Dad use in your barbeque at home. A typical balloon can carry between twenty (20) and sixty (60) gallons of propane in stainless steel or aluminum fuel tanks.

The amount used in a flight depends on how warm it is outside and how much weight is in the balloon but usually runs between eight (8) and fifteen (15) gallons per hour.

Why do balloons fly in the early morning ?
It is a geographic thing. Here in Boise, the atmosphere is most stable early in the morning with gentle winds usually blowing from east to west, making flights very predictable. Many factors cause that to happen including our “Boise Foothills”, Lucky Peak and cool night winds flowing down from mountains. The result is a perfect place to operate hot air balloons.

Within a few hours of sunrise, the sun’s uneven heating of the earth’s surface causes strong variable winds. In Boise, they usually change 180 degrees and flow from west to east by mid morning.

Conditions in other locations are completely different. In Seattle, for example, many of their best balloon flights happen in the evening. The same conditions apply to many locations on the east coast.

Most pilots do not want the wind on the surface to be above six (6) mph during a flight.

How high do balloons fly ?
Hot Air Balloons typically fly from treetop level all the way up to several thousand feet above the ground. Unless they are in the process of landing, balloons at the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic are required to maintain an altitude of at least five hundred (500) feet above the ground.

In 1979, Lighter Than Air America “Chief Pilot” Scott Spencer, flew a hot air balloon to an altitude of 17,590 feet above Boise. That’s over three (3) miles high in the sky. The current world record is over 77,000 feet.

Who can be a balloonist ?
Balloon pilots come from all walks of life. Anyone with the desire to learn to fly a balloon can become a pilot.

 

Lighter than Air America


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Lighter Than Air America, Incorporated


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