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Full of Hot Air

Hot air balloons are a fun and an exciting way to experience a sense of flying. Many say that riding in a hot air balloon offers a great sense of peace while providing incredible 360 degree views all the way from the ground up into the clouds. These amazing crafts of flight rise effortlessly into the sky with hot air created from propane gas heaters (the same substance used to heat backyard gas grills) that essentially inflate the balloon. Since hot air rises and is warmer than the surrounding air outside the balloon, it causes the balloon to become larger and begin to climb into the air. The balloon itself is made of a strong durable lightweight nylon material sewn into panels. This is the same material used in stockings, swimwear, shorts, wind breakers, umbrellas, and even parachutes. Passengers ride in a “basket” typically made of wicker that can safely hold 4-6 people, the propane tanks, and the equipment used to help navigate or steer the balloon.

Hot air balloon
Rising balloon above the palm trees

To fly the balloon, one must inflate it using hot air from the propane tanks. As the balloon heats up it begins to rise and as the balloon cools down it lowers. There is also a valve at the top of the balloon called a parachute valve that can be opened to help with lowering the balloon, if needed. While in the air there are layers of wind stacked on top of each other typically moving in different directions. Balloon pilots study in advance and learn these wind patterns to get a sense of the best direction of travel for the balloon and to know when and where to catch the right wind gust at the right time to take them in the desired direction. The best times for balloon flight are just a few hours after sunrise or a few hours before sunset since these are when winds are considered to be lower speeds and much more predictable. Most hot air balloon flights are followed by a car or truck on the ground and help the pilot and passengers exit the balloon once they have landed back on the ground safely.

There are many hot air balloon festivals that take place across the U.S. each year. What an amazing spectacle to see countless colorful balloons dancing across the blue sky seemingly defying gravity. The largest balloon festival in America takes place in Albuquerque, NM in early October where one can see hundreds of balloons take flight all at once. Albuquerque’s ideal weather conditions such as predictable wind patterns and air temperatures make it a balloon pilot’s dream to navigate the Rio Grande Valley. The stunning surrounding landscape that offers plenty of open spaces for landing and takeoffs doesn’t hurt either.

hot air balloon
Hot air balloon being inflated with propane

Whether you’re looking to take the ride of a lifetime across the sky or just find an amazing photo opportunity, consider finding a hot air balloon festival near you. It is sure to be a most memorable occasion and something that the entire family can enjoy together.

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