Pilots do not steer hot air balloons in the same way you would steer a plane or a car. Hot air balloons are actually ‘lighter than air’ aircraft which means that they move with the wind. Like a bubble of detergent, balloons are carried by the wind and their direction is determined by the direction of airflow.
Most people are unaware that wind direction varies at different heights. The direction of the wind on the surface will not necessarily be the same as it is at say 1000 metres. By flying at different altitudes, the pilots can use different wind speeds and directions to manoeuvre the balloon to where they desire, often with extreme accuracy.
Prior to a flight, pilots will release small helium balloons to allow them to observe the wind’s direction and speed at different heights. This allows the pilots to determine the direction of flight and choose an appropriate upwind launch site based on where they would like to fly and land.
While in flight balloon pilots can control the altitude of the balloon very accurately with carefully timed blasts of the burners and, if experienced, can land within metres of their desired downwind target even if it is many kilometres away.
The fabric section of a hot air balloon is called the ‘envelope’. This is the part that most people call the balloon. It is generally made of nylon and is put together by sewing hundreds of specially cut panels together to give it the ‘tear drop’ shape. These panels are sewn to nylon load tapes that actually distribute the weight loading across the envelope so the actual load on the fabric is less than 0.5kg when flying .
LPG is used to generate heat in balloons . In ballooning circles we tend to use propane, the same gas as used in BBQ’s bottles. Autogas is an option although it tends to burn at somewhat lower pressure and is less clean. LPG is contained within the basket in 45L-62L stainless steel tanks similar in size to those seen on fork lifts.
The LPG burners are handmade from stainless steel and are designed to give maximum heat output for minimum noise. They sound like a fire-breathing dragon and can shoot flames up to 5 metres in length into the envelope .
To get lift and ‘take off’, the envelope is heated using propane burners to a temperature greater than the ambient temperature. This difference in temperature between the outside and inside of the ‘envelope’ allows the balloon to lift off the ground, just as warm smoke or embers rise from a fire. A basket full of people is quite heavy so the volume of the balloon will be based on how much weight needs to be lifted.
The balloon basket or ‘Gondola’ is made of cane or wicker. They are hand woven on to a stainless steel frame with stainless steel load bearing cables woven within the wicker to provide the strength to carry passengers and equipment.
The first humans to ever successfully fly did so in a Hot Air Balloon. In 1783, two French brothers, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, sons of a paper manufacturer, built a balloon (named Montgolfier) out of paper and silk. On 21 November 1783, witnessed by a crowd of 400,000 people, two French noblemen, Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis D’Arlandes, took to the skies above Paris in Montgolfier.
The balloon, 13 metres in diameter, was fuelled with burning wool and straw. The men stayed aloft for 23 minutes and travelled a distance of 8 kilometres, finally landing in a field outside Paris. These two men entered the history books as the first humans to fly.
With the invention of the Aeroplane in 1903, and as people became more interested in powered flight, balloons became a less popular form of aircraft.
It was not until the 1960s, with the invention of propane burners, that Hot Air Ballooning became a more practical form of aviation.
Modern hot air ballooning
Since the 1960s, many developments in technology, materials and equipment have allowed ballooning to become one of the safest forms of modern aviation. Even with all these developments, balloons still use the same principles as those adopted by the Montgolfier brothers, 200 years ago. As the name suggests, hot air balloons are able to fly because they are filled with hot air.
On Tuesday 20th April we flew our Bath Gin hot air balloon from the edge of Henley-on-Thames. Henley is a town on the River Thames in Oxfordshire set in beautiful countryside near London.
After an 1 hour and 20 minuets in the balloon heading North East from Henley-on-Thames we spotted Peppard Common. This is where we were aiming to land and as we got closer we could hear what sounded like hundreds of children screaming with joy. A few minuets later we noticed cones were laid out on the common and we quickly realised that we were about to interrupt a PE lesson!
As we landed the kids were extremely excited but very well behaved. The teachers came out with cups of tea whilst we gave the children a basic lesson in hot air ballooning with the balloon still standing in the air behind us.
All the children were more than happy to help us squeeze the air out of the balloon and pack it away! We are sure this is something they will remember for a long time to come!
A hot air balloon flight is always a real adventure and you never quite know where you will end up. To book your own click here.
Hot air ballooning Henley-on-Thamesfabhalrob2021-04-25T17:42:25+00:00
So long as you land in daylight the answer is yes!
On Sunday we flew from The Globe Inn at Newton St Loe, our hot air balloon launch site on the outskirts of Bath. We left our base near Taunton in the very early hours and arrived at our Bath site at 4am. We met another keen balloonist looking to fly in darkness.
After a final weather check and consultation of a map we decided it was a suitable wind speed and direction to fly at night. We took off at 05.00 and flew for over two hours landing a while after sunrise. We headed South West and landed on the outskirts of Wells. During our flight at 06.10 we climbed to 5,000 ft to watch the sunrise with Bristol and Bath in the distance, It was spectacular.
We then returned to Bath and decided to fly again this time in daylight and right over the city, the home of our sponsors The Bath Distillery. This was the first time our Bath Gin balloon flew over it’s home and the reception we got was incredible. Bath sits in a bowl and you really only get that perspective on a hot air balloon flight over Bath. A beautiful city with its world famous Roman Baths, Pump Rooms and the spectacular Bath Abbey it is one of the finest places to balloon in the UK.
To book a wonderful hot air balloon flight with Fly Away Ballooning click here.
Can you fly a hot air balloon at night?fabhalrob2021-04-06T19:23:43+00:00
When you arrive at our launch site you will be greeted by Hugo and his crew. We undertake a final weather check using a helium balloon to give us an indication of the wind speed and it’s direction, consult a map and all being well start to set the balloon up. We welcome a helping hand setting up but of course this is optional.
The kit is stored and transported in a trailer, so we first pull the basket out and assemble the burners on top of it. We then flip the basket on it’s side and attach the envelope to the basket. The envelope comes in a big bag so we pull it out down wind laying it on the ground.
With your help we hold the bottom of the balloon envelope open to allow our rather noisy fan to pump cold air into the balloon. This is when you will see it take shape for the first time. We then slowly inflate the balloon by pumping hot air into it.
Once the balloon is inflated and standing upright, we are ready for you to hop in and prepare for take off. At this time Hugo will give you simple to follow, clear instructions and talk you through the landing procedure.
We fire up the burners and the balloon gently lifts into the air.
Apart from the occasional whoosh from the burner the flight is peaceful. As you drift along at the same speed as the wind it is quite common to see an array of wildlife – from deer skipping through the tall crops to birds of prey swooping from the trees.
People who are normally afraid of heights do not tend to feel stress during hot air balloon flights. Flying in a hot air balloon is both relaxing and exciting at the same time.
As the flight nears the end, Hugo will look for a suitable landing site, the excitement returns as you line up to land.
A few minutes before the final descent, Hugo will issue landing instructions. He will cause the balloon to gently lose height then the basket will touch the ground and halt. Everyone remains in the basket for a few minutes until the balloon cools down.
Our crew who have constantly tracked the balloon flight and followed in our vehicle will meet us where we land.
How we celebrate ?
With Bath Gin of course!
To book a wonderful and memorable experience with Fly Away Ballooning click here. We offer hot air balloon flights in the South West of England with several locations around Somerset, Devon and Dorset.
What is it like to fly in a hot air balloon?fabhalrob2021-03-23T12:01:14+00:00
We have launched our brand new hot air balloon sponsored by Bath Gin.
Our 105,000 cubic ft balloon which can take four passengers plus pilot will be seen flying throughout the South of England and attending every UK hot air balloon event this year including Bristol balloon fiesta and Longleat sky safari in the South West.
We feel this beautiful balloon is the perfect mix of spectacular artwork to bold lettering creating the perfect hot air balloon campaign for our sponsors. A hot air balloon is a flying billboard which is difficult to miss and impossible to ignore. Would you stop, stare and share if it floated passed you?
It has been a 9 month process from our first phone call with Bath Gin to the completion of our wonderful new balloon. It was built by Cameron Balloons in Bristol, the worlds most popular hot air balloon manufacturer.
If you would like to fly in the Bath Gin hot air balloon then please click here.
Fly Away Ballooning launch Bath Gin hot air balloonfabhalrob2021-03-08T10:51:57+00:00
Fly Away Ballooning are based near Taunton, Somerset. This is a prime location for us to cover the South West of England.
We offer hot air balloon flights in Somerset, Devon and Dorset but we are also happy to travel anywhere for our exclusive balloon rides. See our ticket options here. Following industry specific guidance from the DFT we can start flying you from April 12th. Book a hot air balloon ride with Fly Away Ballooning from a selection of locations in the South West and book onto your preferred flight date. Please see a few things you have to look forward to below!
We look forward to welcoming you on a balloon flight soon.
What to look forward to on a hot air balloon ride?
The spectacle of a large, beautiful balloon inflating whilst you watch with excitement before hopping in.
The unique sensation of floating with the wind whilst flying in the oldest, simplest and yet safest form of aviation.
Peacefully drifting above in a moment of serenity as the world carries on beneath your feet.
Touching down in an unknown location and topping off your adventure with a complimentary G&T in hand. (soft drinks available)
Making memories that last a lifetime
What to bring on a hot air balloon flight?
Clothes suitable for a walk in the country, warm comfortable layers
Your camera or binoculars as our balloon makes an excellent platform for photography
To wear appropriate footwear you don’t mind getting a little dirty
Fly Away Ballooning have decided to accept Bitcoin payments on all our hot air balloon ride vouchers. We have decided to do this as millennials are especially hip to Bitcoin and if by expanding our payment options we can help promote hot air ballooning to a younger audience we feel it worth while. We also believe that one day cryptocurrencies will become a widely used and adopted form of payment and we think becoming an early adopter of the technology cannot be a bad thing.
Our ethos is very much that we want to cater to any consumer demands and if there is a demand for something we will meet it. Fly Away Ballooning are the first hot air balloon rides operator in the world to accept Bitcoin and the first Somerset based company to do so. If you currently hold Bitcoin and wish to purchase your flight with it then it is as easy for you to do so as using PayPal or making a card payment, both of which we of course still accept.
Our North Devon hot air balloon flights launch from Langabridge Farm deep in the Devon countryside. The Nap is a luxury holiday cabin situated here with no neighbours, no road access and no TV, just comfort and serenity.
Flying in a hot air balloon from Langabridge Farm offers picturesque views of the North Devon coastline, Exmoor and the Taw valley. North Devon has its own distinctive character, famous for its long sandy beaches which contrasts with dramatically rugged cliffs and rolling farmland that edges into purple moorland. It’s hard to find anywhere else that offers such a good opportunity for an outdoor adventure such as hot air ballooning.
Whichever way the wind takes you ballooning from Langabridge Farm, you will be offered views of unspoilt countryside of charming towns & villages stretched over beautiful hills and valleys with coastal waters in the distance. Only Devon has this variety and beauty to offer unlike anywhere else in the world.
We are delighted to have partnered with Langabridge Farm, to book a stay or to find out more about The Nap click here.
The Nap is not far from South Molton, only twenty minutes through some country lanes just off the A361, with easy access to Junction 27 on the M5. Receive a 10% discount on your hot air balloon ride and stay at The Nap. To find out more click here.
We look forward to sharing the skies with you soon, #flyfab.
North Devon hot air balloon ridesfabhalrob2021-02-19T22:54:21+00:00
Discover Fly Away Ballooning’s new launch site in Devon, Exeter. Our Exeter hot air balloon rides launch from stunning parkland, in the grounds of Winslade Manor, a grade II* listed building in the countryside just outside the thriving city of Exeter.
Winslade park is setting a new standard for how we collectively live and work. It is a lifestyle choice for small businesses looking to create a big impression with a focus on community, wellbeing and sustainability. Winslade Manor houses a lively bar and elegant lounges for you to relax in after your hot air balloon flight. We provide our balloonists with a collective £10 voucher to use in the bar or restaurant after your balloon ride.
Winslade Park Exeter is a mile to the east of Junction 30 on the M5 motorway on the A376 Exmouth Road. Winslade Park is the ideal location for hot air ballooning in Devon as it is just outside of the City’s urban boundaries and it offers stunning scenery that surrounds Exeter. Make sure you look out for Exeter Cathedral which towers above in the centre of the city. This beautiful hot air ballooning location is nestled away to the east of Dartmoor and has excellent views of the south coast.
Our Devon balloon flights give you a unique and unforgettable experience of which the memories will last a lifetime. To book a balloon ride from Exeter visit our bookings page here.
We are pleased to announce that our Bath Gin branded hot air balloon nears completion. These latest pictures were taken at Cameron Balloons in Bristol during the final stages of production. They have partially inflated the hot air balloon in the factory to allow the engineers to fit the control lines, turning vents and the parachute.
The balloon has now been packed away in a temporary bag whilst we wait for some dry weather and calm winds to undertake the final inspection. This is done in the early mornings at Ashton Court in Bristol on a fine day.
To book a once in a lifetime hot air balloon ride in the South West of England and fly in our brand new pretty hot air balloon click here.