A flight in a hot air balloon is one of life’s most memorable experiences. Have you ever wondered how hot air balloons are made?
A modern hot air balloon does not come from an assembly line like a car but is individually constructed by skilled craftspeople. The main parts of a hot air balloon are the envelope, the burner, and the basket.
The envelope needs to be made from material that is both strong and lightweight. Most modern hot air balloons use nylon, which can withstand the heat and tension involved in a hot air balloon flight. The nylon is cut into panels and sewed together by skilled sewers. An individual panel is known as a gore, and a balloon can be made from four to 24 gores.
The top of the envelope often has a crown ring, a metal hoop about one foot in diameter. The crown ring is attached to the enveloped with tapes.
The top of the balloon has a vent that lets air escape to make the balloon descend. The most common type of vent is known as a parachute vent. When a control lined is pulled, the vent opens. Releasing the line causes the hot air inside the balloon to close the vent.
Most recreational flight balloons have the typical balloon shape, but the envelope can be made of any shape without significantly affecting its aerodynamic qualities. Novel balloons used for advertising have unusual shapes.
The basket needs to be strong enough to hold both the passengers and the pilot. Their size is dependent on the canopy size and the number of passengers it will carry. Most baskets are made from natural willow and cane. Although some baskets are made from modern synthetic materials, willow cane is still used because wicker baskets made from these materials are resilient, lightweight and easy to keep clean. They also look romantic.
Traditional wicker balloon baskets that fly in Britain are mainly made by hand by skilled British craftspeople.
The burner is powered by propane gas and heats the air inside the balloon that causes it to rise. Many balloons use one burner, but some have two so that the pilot can use one or more at a time to vary the intensity of heat.
Most hot air balloons are made with old technology, but one recent addition to the equipment of the balloon is GPS tracking devices carried in the balloon so that the ground crew can track the speed and direction of the balloon. Pilots also carry instruments to measure altitude, the rate of climb and air temperature.
Hot air balloons need to be kept clean and dry to prevent mildew and mould when packing. The burners have to be regularly inspected and the fuel liens kept clear.
Many hot air balloons are made in Britain by specialist hot air balloon makers such as Cameron Balloons of Bristol that has been making balloons since 1971. The company claims to be the largest manufacturer of hot air balloons in the world.