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Hot air ballooning in numbers

24/03/2018 philip Hot Air Balloon History

Hot air ballooning is an old technology that is still thrilling people by taking them up high in the sky to get a wonderful bird’s eye view of the Earth below. To understand this, let’s crunch some numbers:


In 1783, the first manned balloon flight was made in a balloon constructed by the Montgolfier brothers. The flight lasted 20 minutes.

At the end of 1783, Professor Jacques Charles made a 27-mile, two-hour flight from Paris.


The first balloon flight across the English Channel was made by Jean Pierre Blanchard in 1985.


The world record for the highest balloon flight is an eye-watering 68,986 feet over Mumbai in India in 2005.


The world’s largest hot-air balloon is a whopping 750,000 cubic feet and was manufactured by Cameron Balloons, carrying 32 passengers.

What was it made of? It used 2,800 meters of Cameron’s ripstop and Hyperlast fabric. About 3,100 metres of load tape was used and 17 kilometres of thread to sew the massive balloon together. When fully inflated, the balloon is 40 metres high.

Most hot air balloons are about 77,550 cubic feet and carry 3 to 4 people, so this one is about 8 to 10 times the usual size.


When a balloon is in the air and fully inflated, it weighs about 2.5 tons. On the ground with the envelope deflated, it’s a much lighter 600lb.

Below 8

Hot air balloons fly as fast as the wind blows. If the wind is over 8 miles an hour, it’s generally considered too dangerous to fly. Landing in high winds could be rough. This means that hot air balloons fly at speeds from 0 to 8 mph.


People often wonder how much it costs to buy a hot air balloon. Prices vary according to the size and specification of the balloon. A small two-person balloon could cost around £16,000, and ones that carry four passengers and the pilot are likely to be around double that.


If you want to pilot a hot air balloon, you will need a special type of pilot’s licence. A typical route to qualify is as follows:

You will need at least 12 hours of training flights at £220 an hour, making a total of £2,640. This is followed by four hours’ instruction from a British Balloon and Airship Club (BBAC) expert. To complete the qualification, you need to take two examined flights that cost £540 and a witnessed solo flight at £200. The total amount of the training is £4,380.

You may need to take more training flights and this will add to the cost. Balloon pilot training is very thorough, so passengers can be assured that they are being piloted by an expert who will make sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable flight.

It’s always good to be in the know, but fortunately, you do not need to know any of these facts about hot air balloon flying to book your flight today. Just enjoy the trip!

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