Drakensberg Ballooning

Maybe it has something to do with the curve of the earth, but looking down from a hot air balloon makes you feel very small. Early morning, sunrise, incredible silence is interrupted only occasionally by the blast of the burner and occasionally a shrill call of a bird. The excitement is unbelievable as you float calmly over the earth with the Majestic Drakensberg on the horizon.


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Maybe it has something to do with the curve of the earth, but looking down from a hot air balloon makes you feel very small. Early morning, sunrise, incredible silence is interrupted only occasionally by the blast of the burner and occasionally a shrill call of a bird. The excitement is unbelievable as you float calmly over the earth with the Majestic Drakensberg on the horizon.

Peace of Mind

Did you know…?

Hot air ballooning is the safest aviation sport in the world?


There are certain criteria that you should know regarding hot air balloon safety and legality.

No Pilot, even if he or she has a valid licence, is allowed to fly for reward, unless it is under the auspices and control of a company that is licensed as an Air Service and has a valid Operating Certificate issued by CCA.

That is why we are flying in association with Westline Aviation, a Bloemfontein based company. Westline Aviation is well known throughout South Africa.

Drakensberg Ballooning started operating in Winterton in 2012. Danie Honiball and David MacGregor started flying with a small 105 Thunder and Colt Balloon taking up 2 guests at a time. Next a 210 Cameron balloon was acquired and it was possible to take up 8 guests at a time. We have continued to add balloons to the fleet and have a 160 Thunder and Colt and a 315 Cameron.

Annually we participate in the South African Balloon championships. Current Pilots are David MacGregor and Daniel Honiball. The Honiball family host the ballooning on their farm Glen Gray outside Winterton looning

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.


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 super pressure 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.


Ballooning is an inherently safe sport. The sport is governed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), who oversee the licensing of Pilots and issue Air Service Licenses 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 Organization);

·         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:

·         Highest Altitude: 34 668 m – Malcom D. ROSS (USA) 1961

·         Greatest Distance Travelled: 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


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 kilometer 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 brother’s 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.

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