Chances are, at some point or another either you, or someone you know, have looked outside and said, “LOOK! A hot air balloon!”. All of us acknowledge these flying objects to be “cool” but we do not give them enough credit for what they actually are. Hot air balloons are massive machines that are products of both science and creativity. Over the years they have brought beauty, excitement, and way to make memories, to the lives of many.
The Maiden Voyage
In the late 1700’s, Joseph Montgolfier realized, as he held his shirt by the neck and inflated it while standing beside a chimney fire, that the difference in hot and cold air could potentially allow something to lift off of the ground. This was the very beginning of what we now call a “hot air balloon”.
Joseph and his brother Etienne began to experiment and create different sized globes. With a 900-meter envelope made of cotton and paper, the two brothers tied the balloon and basket to the ground and began to create sufficient heat. They cut the ropes, and the balloon was successful in its flight before falling to its fiery destruction in a nearby field. On November 21st, 1783 history was made as the Montgolfier brothers launched a hot air balloon with its first ever human passenger.
From Here to There
Since then, hot air balloons have been modernized, somewhat in their structure, but largely because of the addition of propane. The hot air balloon consists of three parts. Starting from the bottom of the balloon to the top, the three parts include: the basket, the burner system, and the envelope.
Made of either wicker, or aluminum and fiberglass, the basket is a sturdy square structure which both protects the balloon’s passengers, as well as supports the burner system. The burner system consists of a pilot light, a blast valve, and a pressure gauge; all allowing the pilot to control the effectiveness of the propane as it enters the envelope of the balloon.
The envelope is in fact, the “balloon” part of a hot air balloon, made of nylon fabric reinforced with polyurethane. The bottom of the envelope is referred to as the mouth, and it allows the heated air to enter the balloon, setting it into motion. The envelope is the part of the balloon that everyone notices as it consists of many beautiful colors that can be seen from a distance.
You have probably seen a hot air balloon on more than one occasion. Maybe, you have even visited a hot air balloon festival where you can see hundreds of balloons at once! But is seeing a hot air balloon from the outside enough to satisfy your curiosity, or do you want to experience the feeling of being 3,000 feet in the air, for yourself? One of the many things to do in Lancaster PA is to take a hot air balloon ride.
Lancaster is known for its scenery, and flying over acres of beautiful farmland is an experience you will not soon forget. To make you more comfortable, you should know that the pilot of your balloon has obtained a pilot’s license, or airman’s certificate, just as the pilot of a plane has. They are trained in operating the hot air balloon safely.
We can agree that hot air balloons are pretty remarkable. A hot air balloon ride is a fantastic way to make a lifelong memory. Maybe it’s the perfect opportunity to check something off your “bucket list”, or to conquer your fear of heights. Maybe you think a hot air balloon ride would be the perfect gift for a loved one, or maybe you are not sold on the idea of traveling at an extremely high altitude, and would like to continue to observe the balloons from the ground.
Whatever you decide, we can all conclude that hot air balloons are a piece of history that brings as much joy today, as they did for the Montgolfier brothers.