“The winds have welcomed you with softness, The sun has greeted you with it’s warm hands, You have flown so high and so well, That God has joined you in laughter, And set you back gently into The loving arms of Mother Earth.”
Anon, known as ‘The Baloonists Prayer’, believed to have been adapted from an old Irish sailors’ prayer.
Allow the experts be your guide as you weightlessly drift into the sky. There is no better way to experience the breath-taking, romantic landscape of South Africa than from a Hot Air Balloon. Weather you wish to spot the big five from your basket in the sky or simply take in the natural, raw beauty of South Africa – Hot Air ballooning is an experience you sure not to regret!
#PickYourPlayground to fly today!
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About Hot Air Balloons:
Commonly we most often refer to these vehicles as hot air balloons, in fact there are various types of balloons that can take passengers. A balloon is a type of lighter than air, aircraft that remains aloft due to its buoyancy. A balloon travels by moving with the wind. It is distinct from an airship which is a buoyant aircraft that can be propelled through the air in a controlled manner. It is also distinct from aerostat which is a balloon that is moored to the ground rather than free flying.
Hot Air Ballooning Equipment:
There are three main types of balloon aircraft:
- Hot air balloons
- Gas balloons
- Rozière balloons
Hot air balloons obtain their buoyancy by heating the air inside the balloon. They are the most common type of balloon aircraft.
Gas balloons are inflated with a gas of lower molecular weight than the ambient atmosphere. Most gas balloons operate with the internal pressure of the gas being the same as the surrounding atmosphere. There is a special type of gas balloon called superpressure balloons that can operate with the lifting gas at pressure that exceeds the pressure of the surrounding air with the objective of limiting or eliminating the loss of gas from day-time heating.
Gas balloons are filled with gases such as:
- Hydrogen – not widely used for aircraft since the Hindenburg disaster because of high flammability (except for some sport balloons as well as nearly all unmanned scientific and weather balloons).
- Helium – the gas used today for all airships and most manned balloons in the United States ammonia – used infrequently due to its caustic qualities and limited lift coal gas – used in the early days of ballooning, high flammability
- Rozière balloons use both heated and unheated lifting gases. The most common modern use of this type of balloon is for long distance record flights such as the recent circumnavigations.
How Safe Are Hot Air Balloons?
Ballooning is an inherently safe sport. The sport is governed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), who oversee the licencing of Pilots and issue Air Service Licences and Operating Certificates.The Operating Certificate certifies that the Air Service has been inspected and shows:
- that adequate Passenger Legal Liability and Third Party Insurance is in place; the registration letters of the particular hot air balloons the Air Service is allowed to use for hire and reward;
- that the hot air balloons are all Certified as being maintained and signed off by a currently licensed AMO (Aircraft Maintenance Organisation);
- that the hot air balloons are type-certified and have been manufactured by a company licensed to do this.
Each aircraft (hot air balloon) also carries documentation including:
- A Flight Folio book in which the aircraft hours are recorded after every flight, and shows when the Mandatory Inspection is due in both hours and date;
- A Certificate of Airworthiness Certificate of Ownership Certificate of Safety for Flight Flights are usually conducted early in the morning when the winds are calm and the air is stable.
Although you may get a bit of a bump on landing, the experience is generally quiet, calm and gentle.
Interesting Facts About Hot Air Ballooning:
Highest Altitude: 34 668 m – Malcom D. ROSS (USA) 1961
Greatest Distance Traveled: 40 814 km – Bertrand PICCARD (Switzerland) 1999
Longest Flight: 477 h. 47 min. – Bertrand PICCARD (Switzerland) 1999
Shortest Time Around The World: 320 h 33 min – Steve FOSSETT (USA) 2002
A Short History of Hot Air Balloons:
The hot air balloon was developed as a children’s toy round about the 2nd or 3rd century AD in China. It has been proposed that some ancient civilizations developed manned hot air balloon flight.
For example it has been proposed that the Nazca lines (which are best seen from the air) presuppose some form of manned flight, and a balloon was the only possible available technology that could have achieved this. Julian Nott designed and built a balloon using woven cotton fabric and a Torta reed gondola, both readily available to the peoples who made the Nazca lines. Heating the air in the balloon with a wood fire, Nott flew over the Nazca Plains. He comments that there is no evidence of any kind that that ancient peoples did fly but this flight proved beyond doubt that most early civilizations could have flown: all they needed was a loom and fire.
In 1709 in Lisbon, Bartolomeu de Gusmão made a balloon filled with heated air rise inside a room. He also made a balloon named Passarola (Port. Big bird) and attempted to lift himself from Saint George Castle, in Lisbon, but only managed to harmlessly fall about one kilometre away.
Following Henry Cavendish’s work on hydrogen, of 1766, Joseph Black proposed that a balloon filled with hydrogen would be able to rise in the air.
A model of the Montgolfier brothers balloon at the London Science Museum.
The first recorded manned balloon flight was made in a hot air balloon built by the Montgolfier brothers on November 21, 1783. The flight started in Paris and reached a height of 500 feet or so. The pilots, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and Francois Laurent (the Marquis of d’ Arlanders) covered about 5 1/2 miles in 25 minutes.
Only a few days later, on December 1, 1783, Professor Jacques Charles and Nicholas Louis Robert made the first gas balloon flight. Like the first hot air balloon flight, this flight left from Paris. The hydrogen filled balloon flew to almost 2000 feet, stayed aloft for over 2 hours and covered a distance of 27 miles, landing in the small town of Nesle.
Once flight was shown to be possible, the next great challenge was to fly across the English Channel. The feat was accomplished on January 7, 1785 by Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman, and American John Jeffries, who sponsored the flight.
Blanchard went on to make the first manned flight of a balloon in America on January 9, 1793. His hydrogen filled balloon took off from a prison yard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The flight reached 5,800 feet and landed in Gloucester County in New Jersey. George Washington was among the guests observing the take off.
Gas balloons became the most common type from the 1790s until the 1960s.
The first steerable balloon (also known as a dirigible) was attempted by Henri Giffard in 1852. Powered by a steam engine it was too slow to be effective. Like heavier than air flight, the internal combustion engine made dirigibles, especially blimps, practical, starting in the late nineteenth century.
Ed Yost reinvented the design of hot air balloons in the late 1950s using rip-stop nylon fabrics and high powered propane burners to create the modern hot air balloon. His first flight of such a balloon, lasting 25 minutes and covering 3 miles, occurred on October 22, 1960 in Bruning, Nebraska.
Yost’s improved design for hot air balloons triggered the modern sport balloon movement. Today, hot air balloons are much more common than gas balloons.