The first test flight of a hot air balloon carrying people was carried out on October 19, 1783 near Paris. And on November 21, the first public flight took place, which then lasted 25 minutes and approx. We managed to cover 7.5 km. The balloon rose with the help of heated air, which was produced by burning straw and dry wood on a grate under the balloon dome. It only took a few days, however, and on December 1 of the same year, the first hot-air balloon filled with hydrogen took off in the vicinity of Paris, rising to a height of 550 meters. Unfortunately for them, upon landing, the local residents were so horrified that they immediately destroyed the "evil structure".
The practical spread of balloons was given a big boost by the American Civil War of 1861-63, when the first balloon air force was created.
Hot air balloon flights were also of great importance in terms of scientific experimentation. As early as 1784, scientific tests and experiments were carried out in flight. What was investigated: changes in temperature and air pressure, air composition, gravity, examination of living beings, meteorological processes.
In July 1803, the first strictly scientific flight took place in Hamburg. Physicists flew for 5 and a half hours, up to an altitude of 7,000 meters, without oxygen bottles, in excruciating pain. Studies are carried out regarding cloud and air electricity, sound propagation, the boiling point of water and the evaporation process.
The hobby and sports balloons used today, as well as the hot air balloons operated for tourist purposes, rise or fall according to the long-proven hot air principle, with the big difference that the hot air is now not achieved by burning dry branches, but by propane bottles.
The Balaton Ballooning team told us interesting facts about ballooning
We asked the pilots of Hungary's largest hot air balloon what they know about the huge balloon they fly around Hévíz and Kis-Balaton. Pilots Péter Kollár and Attila Aklan control Balaton Ballooning's hot air balloon from spring to the end of October, almost every day when the weather permits.
We received answers to a number of questions, and here are the following, briefly and succinctly:
What parts does a hot air balloon usually have?
The main parts of hot air balloons are: basket, burner, dome, tension ropes, fuel (gas) tanks. In addition, the following are required for operation: fans for inflation, trailer for ground transport.
Are there types of hot air balloons? If so, what are yours like?
There are several types of balloons, Balaton Ballooning's Cameron A-375. The type is composed as follows: Cameron Ltd. is the manufacturer, A-type indicates the cut shape, the volume of the dome is 375,000 cubic feet (10,620 m3).
What is the size and weight of the basket and how many people can it fit?
350x170 cm, 356 kg, 18 passengers + 1 pilot can travel in it. This is the largest used basket size at home. There are only 2 larger basket sizes, the largest can carry 27 people. The smallest is only 80x70 cm, weighs 55 kg and can accommodate only 1 person.
What material is the basket made of?
Sea reed woven on a metal and plastic frame.
Can a basket have characteristics?
Our basket is also unique, based on the plans of the chief pilot and the executive, it was made in the Ultramagic factory in Catalonia. It was developed for passenger flights, 5 and 4 people can travel in the right and left asymmetric passenger compartments. Each passenger has a space of 0.25 square meters as required by the EU. At the same time, it is unique in that it is also equipped with seat belts, which is rare because it is not mandatory. That's why only our basket is like this at home, but this is not typical in the world either.
How big is the dome?
It has a volume of 10,620 m3 and a maximum load capacity of 3,401 kg - it can lift this much weight. When tensioned, it is as tall as a 10-story prefab house. It is 35 meters high, and its diameter at its widest point is 15 meters. This is the biggest balloon in Hungary.
What material is the dome made of? Is it similar to what a spinnaker is for sailing ships, or a parachute for skydivers?
Yes, it is a Hyperlast material. It has high tensile strength and can withstand 125 degrees Celsius without heat damage. Furthermore, the lower part at the burner head is made of Nomex flame retardant material.
Why are there gaps in the dome circle?
These are turning wheels, with the help of which the balloon can be turned 360 degrees along its longitudinal axis. Before landing, the pilot rotates the balloon to the landing side, and the balloon can also be rotated during flight, so that all passengers can see everything in a 360-degree panoramic view.
How damage resistant is the dome?
The Hyperlast material is a densely woven material with high tensile strength, so it is not fragile.
What is the air temperature in the dome?
Between 80 and 120 degrees, depending on whether we fly in cold (spring-autumn) or hot (summer) weather.
What will happen to the dome when it is no longer in use? - Can this be used for something else?
It will be scrapped. We can't use it for anything else.
What kind of fuel does the balloon need?
Propane gas, which is filled in special bottles for balloon flights.
How much fuel do you need to fly?
On average, 110-150 kg of propane gas is burned during a 1-hour flight.
How heavy is the fuel at the beginning of the flight?
The starting weight is 300 kg.
How long is the fuel taken for?
Sufficient for roughly 2.5 hours of flight time
How much fuel is consumed depends on what?
From the total weight of the passengers and how many degrees the outside air temperature is. Heavy passengers and 35 degree heat consumes a lot of gas.
THE PILOTS AND THE STAFF
How many people do your balloons have?
In a hot air balloon, we distinguish between the air crew, who are the pilots, and the ground service crew. There is room for 1 pilot in the basket, take-off, landing, unpacking and transport are carried out by 4 people.
What does a pilot need to know?
European and Hungarian aviation laws, regulations and regulations. Historical knowledge (balloon flight). Theoretical foundations of balloon flight. Flight execution methodology. Meteorology, navigation, first aid, fire protection. Radio management and distribution rules. Knowledge of aircraft, instrumentation, use of other tools. Inspection, repair. Knowledge of regulations. Emergencies and what to do in case of an emergency. Ground preparation. Aviation knowledge.
I have an instructor's and A, B, C, D professional service license. Which means I can drive all categories of balloons. I have flown 3,606 hours, 3,492 flights, I have been flying only with balloons for 38 years.
Do the ground staff also need training?
Appropriate driving license for the vehicles used to transport the balloon and passengers. Knowledge related to balloon flight: Ground preparation. Aviation knowledge. Radio management and distribution rules. Flight execution methodology. First aid, fire protection. OSH education.
RISING, DESCENT, CHANGE OF DIRECTION
How do you control a hot air balloon to how high it goes? which direction to fly?
It all depends on the direction and speed of the wind. Wind blows in different directions and speeds at different heights. The direction and distance of flight depends on these stratospheric winds. By increasing or decreasing the temperature of the air in the balloon, the balloon can be raised to different heights in order to obtain a favorable wind.
What makes take-off or landing difficult or complicated?
Due to the strength of the wind, e.g. We cannot take off in case of a ground wind speed of 15 km/h. When landing, if the wind increases or changes.
Is there a hot air balloon where you can control it better and fly on a fixed route?
No, that's not really possible. There are characteristic wind directions resulting from geographical features that can be counted on, based on meteorological forecasts, but this cannot be called a planned, fixed route.
In the past, there were bags filled with sand on the sides of the balloons, which were used to control the height. Is there still such a ballast in the hot air balloon?
Only gas balloons fly with ballast. Gas balloons are filled with a gas that is lighter than air (e.g. hydrogen, helium or ammonia), the buoyancy of which lifts them up. The gas providing passive lift heats up in the sun and starts to rise uncontrollably, it cools down at night, its buoyancy decreases and the balloon will sink. There is no possibility of refilling in the air, so they carry sandbags as ballast. They can rise by scattering themselves from the sand, and sink by releasing gas.
What is the highest altitude and the longest distance you have flown up and down?
We were already flying at an altitude of 3,000 meters. Our furthest flight was from Hévíz to Noszlop. This is roughly a distance of 55 km as the crow flies. This distance with such a balloon is actually the unofficial Hungarian record.
Is there a law that regulates hot air ballooning? Who and how supervises who can fly, where and with what?
The rules are laid down in the XCVII of 1995. Act on Aviation, is determined by the Department of Aviation Inspection Authority of the Ministry of Construction and Transport and the European Aviation Safety Agency. The pilot must have a valid professional service license and flight medical certificate for the given aircraft, and the balloon must have a valid airworthiness and registration certificate and insurance.
Are there traffic rules that apply to hot air balloons?
Yes. During daily flights, you can fly according to the airspace utilization plan issued by HungaroControl Magyar Légiforgalgi Szolgálat, taking into account prohibited and restricted airspaces.
What determines how far a hot air balloon can fly safely? - are there statistics on how many times you have flown with this balloon?
There is a technical exam after every 100 hours flown. During this, the tensile strength of the dome material is also reviewed. If it can withstand a breaking load of 14 kg, it can be flown. We are currently on flight 841. (September 18, 2023)
How often do hot air balloon accidents happen?
Since the balloon is a simple structure that works on a simple principle, accidents are not common.
What happens if someone gets altitude sickness? How fast can you land?
Passengers don't usually get sick. If so, I have cold mineral water, aspirin, and candy. Quick landing is not possible. Therefore, we do not carry passengers with circulatory, locomotor, or psychiatric problems, or those who are under the influence of alcohol or any other mind-altering substance.
Is there competition for hot air balloons?
Yes, but only for smaller balloons. Ours is not a competition balloon.
What clothes should passengers fly in?
When getting in and out of the balloon basket, it is more practical to use closed sports shoes and long pants, they can also be useful due to the uncertain landing site. Due to the possible wind, it is not recommended to wear hats that are easily blown away by the wind, and since we usually fly in the evening, at sunset, it is worth bringing a jacket or sweater with you even in the summer.
As you go up, how does the temperature change?
Moving away from the surface, the average temperature decreases. The decrease is 1 °C per 100 meters in dry air and 0.65 °C in moist air.
You can sometimes hear that there are hot air balloon expeditions on extreme routes - what are the main differences compared to hot air ballooning?
Hot air balloon expeditions (crossing the ocean, circumnavigation, arctic) use special balloons, and there are also mixed-use ones (helium and hot air balloons at the same time). Balloons flying this high raise closed, pressurized cabins.
It's just a vehicle, and with vehicles there's always an interesting question: how much does it cost?
In the case of this type, the basket is approx. HUF 12 million, dome approx. 25 million, burner approx. 5 million, gas tanks HUF 800,000. It's not something you just take home for fun.
You can fly with Balaton Ballooning until the end of October, and the next time it will take off is in the spring of 2024. If you miss out this year, you can buy a gift certificate for the next season, even for a birthday, anniversary, or Christmas!