The high of a lifetime.
The only balloon operator in South Africa dedicated to flying from a wide selection of venues.
We launch our hot air balloons at dawn, as this is the only time the air is stable. We drift with the wind, so there is no turbulence during flight – it’s just you and the elements. There are days when there is very little wind and other days where the wind picks up in flight, so we never know how far we will fly or where we are going to land until we get there. The flight duration is generally one hour but can be anywhere from about 50 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, depending on the wind direction and the accessibility of a suitable landing site. The pilot uses the different directional winds at different altitudes to steer the balloon, however, the main control the pilot has is simply up and down. The pilot will usually try to vary the height he flies at; the maximum height he will attain will depend on Air Traffic Control authorities in the area, but it is usually about 1500’ to 2000’ above the ground. He will also fly at treetop height, so you can see what is happening below you – or to spot game. The pilot heads towards an open field to land; the ground crew follow the balloon during flight and pack it up on the landing site whilst our passengers enjoy a celebratory glass of champagne. We then return to a nearby lodge for breakfast. The total duration is 3 – 4 hours from the time we meet until after breakfast. Clothing and equipment:
- Hats or caps are essential
- Valuables should be kept to a minimum
- Temperatures are often warmer in the air than on the ground.
- We recommend that you wear clothing in peelable layers, long pants and closed flat shoes as you will need to climb into and out of the hot air balloon’s basket.
- In the summertime, your shoes can become quite wet in the early morning dew, so it is recommended that you bring a spare pair for after the flight.
- At any time of the year, we recommend wearing sunscreen on your face.
- Extra jackets, handbags, backpacks or camera bags/tripods may be left with the ground crew during flight.
- Please be sure to have extra batteries for your camera and don’t worry about the smiles – we provide them!
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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 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.
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 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.
KwaZulu-Natal Interior 2000 Clarens, Free State, South Africa 1 Sowberry Lane, Buccleuch, Sandton, South Africa
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