Hot Air Balloons



Navigating a balloon is significantly different from an aircraft. All trust must be placed with the wind/air itself. Prior to lifting off, a pilot balloon ("piball") is usually launched to determine the direction of the winds at various altitudes. However, the direction of the winds locally to the launching site, may not be the same a few miles away.

The pilot then is constantly searching for the winds in the direction he/she desires to travel. The trick then is to get the balloon to the right altitude and to keep the balloon at the right altitude. From discussions with most pilots, they'll tell you that they have very little control over where they'll end up. The only control the pilot has, is with the burner controls and the parachute valve. This allows only changes in altitude. The pilot must get used to the hysterisis involved with these controls, so as to not overshoot or undershoot the altitude desired. This brings in the important "chase" vehicle.


The chase vehicle is ground based (car/truck) that stays in contact with the pilot, so that appropriate help is available, when it's time for the balloon to land. Landing requires skill by the pilot, again on the control of the parachute valve, and any last minute burner control needed to correct for the balloon dropping too fast. The chase vehicle will then get to the potential landing site prior to the balloon landing.











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