Interesting facts about hot air balloons

hot air balloons

A hot air balloon is a type of aircraft.

The hot air balloon consists of three parts: an envelope – which contains heated air, basket or gondola, and burner system which creates an open flame by burning a mix of liquid propane and air.

The basic principle behind hot air balloon physics is the use of hot air to create buoyancy, which generates lift.

Hot air weighs less than the same volume of cold air (it is less dense), which means that hot air will rise up or float when there is cold air around it, just like a bubble of air in a pot of water.

The hot air balloon is the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology.

The first untethered manned hot air balloon flight was performed by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes on November 21, 1783, in Paris, France, in a balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers. In 25 minutes the two men traveled just over 8 kilometers (5 miles). King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, but de Rozier, along with the Marquis François d’Arlandes, successfully petitioned for the honor.

first hot air balloon flight

The first hot air balloon flown in the United States was launched from the Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia on January 9, 1793 by the French aeronaut Jean Pierre Blanchard.

The next great challenge was to fly across the English Channel, a feat accomplished on January 7, 1785 also by Jean Pierre Blanchard.

The first aircraft disaster occurred in May 1785 when the town of Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland was seriously damaged when the crash of a balloon resulted in a fire that burned down about 100 houses, making the town home to the world’s first aviation disaster.

Modern hot air balloons, with an onboard heat source, were developed by Ed Yost, beginning during the 1950s; his work resulted in his first successful flight, on October 22, 1960.

hot air balloon ed yost

Baskets are commonly made of woven wicker or rattan. These materials have proven to be sufficiently light, strong, and durable for balloon flight.

Most hot air balloons are made of nylon now. The melting point of this material is approximately 230º C (446º F).

The temperature inside a hot air balloon is usually kept below 120º C (248º F).

While most envelopes have inverted tear drop shape others are designed to look like animals, cartoon characters, pirate ships, and other fun objects.


As with all aircraft, hot air balloons cannot fly beyond the atmosphere.

On November 26, 2005 Dr Vijaypat Singhania (India) set the world altitude record for highest hot air balloon flight, reaching 21,027 meters (68,986 feet) in a Cameron Z-1600 hot-air balloon over Mumbai, India.

With a volume of 74,000 cubic meters (2,600,000 cubic feet), the ‘Virgin Pacific Flyer’ balloon  envelope was the largest ever built for a hot air craft. Designed to fly in the trans-oceanic jet streams ‘Virgin Pacific Flyer’ recorded the highest ground speed for a manned balloon at 394 km/h (245 mph).

virgin pacific flyer

Richard Branson (UK) with his pilot Per Lindstrand were the first to cross the Atlantic in hot-air balloon (in the ‘Virgin Pacific Flyer’), from July 2-3, 1987. They ascended from Sugarloaf, Maine, USA and covered the distance of 4947 kilometers (3075 miles), to Limavady, Co. Londonderry in 31 hrs
41 mins.

On January 15, 1991, the ‘Virgin Pacific Flyer’ balloon completed the longest flight in a hot air balloon when Per Lindstrand  from Sweden and Richard Branson of the UK flew 7,671.91 kilometers (4,767.10 miles) from Japan to Northern Canada.

Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones guided the balloon Breitling Orbiter 3 up and away from the Swiss Alpine village of Chateau d’Oex at 8:05, GMT, 1 March 1999. They landed in the Egyptian desert 19 days, 21 hours and 55 minutes later (21 March 1999), having traveled a distance of over 46,670 kilometers (29,000 miles) and completed the first non-stop flight around the world with a free balloon.

orbiter 3

Fedor Konyukhov flew solo round the world on his first attempt in a hybrid hot-air/helium balloon from 11 to 23 July 2016 for a round-the world time of 272 hrs 11 mins (under 11 days). He exceed the record for briefest time traveling around the world.

fedor konyukhov balloon flight

In 2014, a giant hot air balloon was manufactured by Cameron Balloons of Bristol. It carried 32 passengers to claim the world record for the largest certified passenger carrying balloon.

The oldest person to fly in a hot air balloon Emma Carrol (USA, b. 18 May 1895) made an hour-long flight in a hot air balloon at Ottumwa, Iowa, USA, on 27 July 2004 at the age of 109 years 70 days.

The largest number of hot air balloons to take off at once was 408. This took place on July 31st 2013 in France at the Lorraine Mondial Air Balloon gathering.

the largest number of hot air balloons to take off at once

Hot air balloon festivals are held annually in many places throughout the year, allowing hot air balloons operators to gather- as well as for the general public- to participate in various activities. They can include races; evening “night glows”, in which balloons are fired while remaining tethered to the ground; and rides.

hot air balloons festival

The world’s largest hot air balloon festival is hosted in Albuquerque, New Mexico, each year. The festival lasts nine days and features more than 500 hot air balloons.

Traditionally, each time a hot air balloon lands, Champagne is shared. It is said that back in ‘olden times’, farmers believed that hot-air balloons that were landing in their fields may have been dragons descending from the skies! To soothe the farmers’ fears, hot-air balloon pilots would share a bottle with the farmers, whose land they had descended on…

Hot air balloon flights are not possible in the rain. This is because the heat inside of the balloon can bring rain to boiling temperatures on top of the balloon, thereby destroying hot air balloon fabric.

Solar balloons are hot air balloons that use just solar energy captured by a dark envelope to heat the air inside.