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Bized - Glossary of Ballooning
Category: Sport and Leisure > Ballooning
Date & country: 18/09/2007, UK
Words: 82

The actual weather report at a given time.

Anabatic Wind
Warm air flowing up hill as the sun has heated up the mountainside surface.

Area of high pressure on a weather chart, with characteristics of very stable air and light winds, generally good for ballooning.

The artwork on balloons takes various forms. At the simplest level it can be stuck onto the balloon. The fabric sections are cut by computer and are then stuck on. The material is 'normal' balloon fabric with a silver backing, a sticky backing and then a paper backing (to stop it sticking together).

Balloon Flight
This takes place with the wind as a balloon cannot steer its own direction, although it can adjust it's height to within a metre or so. Therefore much planning, must go into a flight to ensure that there is a safe route and landing place for the balloon down wind, with the amount of fuel carried considering the wind speed. (Speed / Distance / Time calculations are very important!).

Balloonist Landowner liaison course
A course for all balloonists about the countryside, the law, requesting permission for take-off and collecting the balloon rules, crops and animals.

The basket perhaps needs little explanation! It is made out of cane and willow and woven by craftsman. It has a padded edge around the top of suede or leather which is one of the only concessions to comfort. Despite modern advances in materials the woven basket is still felt to be the best material - better than plastics and metals. This is because of the basket's ability to absorb the shock loads that can be put on it by bumpy landings. It also has stainless steel wires that run from under the burner frame, down the poles, under the basket and up the other side to provide a strong cradle for the occupants.

The British Balloon and Airship Club - the governing body for UK balloonists although very well revered world wide. It provides bimonthly magazines and training for new and existing balloonists.

The pre, during and post flight informative and safety instructions.

Heat source for a hot-air balloon is a high-output burner fed by liquid propane which passes through a vaporising coil prior to combustion. Flow is controlled by an on/off valve referred to as a blast valve. Most balloons have two types of burners incorporated into them. They have main burners and also a 'whisper' system which is quieter than the main burner. The burners are like a bunsen burner at school and produce a flame with or without the mix of air. The flame from the burners appears when the blast valve is operated. This releases a mixture of vaporised and liquid propane which is lit by a pilot light.

Centripetal Force
Force generated as the air goes around the curves in the air.

Cirrus Clouds
A high cloud, often the first warning of an approaching depression.

When air ascends it expands and cools and if sufficiently moist a cloud will form. Visible clouds are of several recognisable types depending on the process of their formation.

Cold front
The cold front is a much more vertical start to it with the cold air pushing into the warm front sector, with heavy showers and large cumulonimbus clouds.

Commercial Balloons
Balloons operated by paid pilots flying advertising or special shape balloons for their clients. It involves not only travelling from show to show on 'the circuit' taking corporate clients for flights morning and evening, tethering balloons during the day, newspaper, radio and television interviews and night-glows.

Local, National and International competitions which are run, with rules organised by the British Balloon and Airship club and the FAI - Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

Coriolis Force
An apparent force acting on the parcel of air due to the Earth's rotation, in the northern hemisphere the air is deflected to the right and in the southern hemisphere the air is deflected to the left.

CPL-Commercial Pilot's Licence
An extra licence, involving more practical and theoretical examinations (most of them are the same as fixed wing passenger pilots) required to enable you to charge for your services as a pilot.

essential to fly and operate a balloon. Be nice to your crew as they are the ones who will come and get you after the flight.

Cumulonimbus Clouds
Are thunderclouds and are likely to generate lightning, hail and fierce convection currents. When the cloud reaches very high levels it is composed of ice crystals which tail off in the upper wind, This is then known as the anvil.

Cumulus Clouds
Heaped cloud associated with convection. Typical summer convection will generate a sky with regular patterns of fair-weather cumulus and if these grow bigger they become towering cumulus and may give rain showers.

Cushion Floor
The meaning of this is probably very clear! Wouldn't you want to be comfortable when landing from several thousand feet!

Commonly known as low pressure or a low, associated with horrible rainy and stormy weather with warm and cold fronts.

The pilot is given two markers. After a certain minimum distance he drops the first, then after a further minimum distance, the second. The score is the greatest change of course between the two legs of the flight, measured in degrees.

The envelope is the part of the balloon that inflates. It is made up of a number of vertical segments called gores, which are themselves made up of a number of smaller panels. Each panel edge is folded back on itself, interleaved with the next folded edge, and then all four thicknesses of fabric are sewn through twice by machine using a lockstitch known as a French Fell Seam. The gores are attached to heavy duty webbing tapes that pass around the balloon. The envelope has large holes top and bottom. The bottom one is fairly obvious in its function - the pilot has to be able to fill the balloon with hot air. The top one is a valve to enable the pilot to vent air quickly when the pilot wants to descend or land. Envelopes are named by their capacity. For example a '77' holds 77,000 cubic feet of air. This is about the size of balloon that will carry three people.

Envelope Scoop
This is the small conical section of cloth that hangs from below the main envelope and runs halfway around the envelope. Its purpose is to direct the hot air into the main envelope and protect the jet from the prevailing breeze. It also helps to pressurise the balloon particularly when tethering.

The fabric that is used to make hot-air balloons is known as ripstop nylon and weighs 70g/m2. It is specially woven with crisscross reinforcement threads to make it extra strong. The fabric is lightweight and colourful and can withstand temperatures in excess of 120 degrees C - well above the boiling point of water. Nomex - fabric that feels like cotton and is very resistant to heat is used round the mouth of the balloon where the flame from the burner may melt the nylon, particularly on a windy day. Nomex is a similar fabric to that used in the suits for racing car drivers to protect them.

The balloons and crews go out from the contest field by a certain minimum distance, usually 5km and choose their own take-off point to fly back from. They take-off in a field (after asking the landowner's permission) and fly back to drop their marker on the goal in the contest field. This task has its drawbacks but is a great spectator sport.

The advance report of the likely weather conditions at a given time in the near future e.g. 12 hour/24hour based on the trend of the weather and our knowledge of variables affecting the weather.

Fuel Cylinders
40 - 80 litre aluminium, stainless steel or titanium containers with valves to release pressurised propane in a controlled manner through the burner controls. All cylinders have a contents guage and pressure relief which protects against excessive internal pressure.

Fuel Tanks
The fuel tanks or cylinders are tanks of liquid propane gas. They normally stand in the corner of the basket leaving room for the pilot and passengers. Padded covers surround the cylinder - just in case of a bumpy landing - while rubber encased armoured pipes carry the fuel up to the burner which is supported above the basket on flexible nylon rods. Fuel tanks are now available from Cameron's made out of titanium which offers a significant weight saving.

Gloves, boots and willingness
Gloves, walking boots and the willingness to get up early are the most important pieces of equipment for new people into ballooning : Sturdy leather gloves for handling ropes, fabric and basket are best; Flat lace up boots provide good ankle support and are perfect for walking in dewy fields first thing in the morning; Be prepared to get up early, we are often on the field preparing for flight just after dawn and in the Summer that can be as early as 04:30am!

This is an identifiable point from which measurements can be made. If possible the target should be clearly visible from the air.

Gradient Wind
Measured in knots and degrees in the direction it is coming from considered to be over 2000ft above ground level. (It also takes into account the geostrophic force which is the force of pressure gradient, coriolis and centripetal forces.)

Grid North
Is the marked North lines (called Eastings - because each north-south line moves further east as you move across the map) used on maps to split it into easy chunks.

Grid references
The letters and numbers to pin-point a position on the map clearly (usually a six figure number). Always use the along the runway and take off philosophy to ensure you get the numbers the correct way round.....

Hesitation Waltz
A curious name for a task which is really a judge declared goal with a choice of several goals. The plot can choose one after take-off.

A special fabric exclusive to Cameron Balloons used in the top of the balloon. Although heavier (90g/m2) than nylon it is almost 10 times as strong (it is also available in 23 different colours/the same number as nylon).

Inflator Fan
Shooting jets of flame sideways into an empty envelope doesn't tend to do it any good, and so the initial inflation of the envelope is done with an inflator fan. They may have either three bladed or four bladed fans to improve their efficiency, and they come in a range of power depending on the size of envelope that needs to be filled.

Commonly used in ballooning for altitude measurement (altimeter), to display climb and descent rate (variometer) and to indicate envelope internal temperature (thermistor).

Lines of equal pressure on a weather chart.

Lines of equal temperature on a weather chart.

Judge declared goal competition
The competitors are given a goal somewhere downwind, and they must try to drop their markers on it. It is usually marked with a large fabric cross pinned to the ground with tent pegs and is watched by a group of official observers.

The metal connection points (often used in climbing although ballooning tends to use the stronger and heavier versions) between the basket wires and the envelope wires.

Katabatic Wind
Cool wind flowing down the mountainside before the sun has heated up the surface.

Measurement of nautical miles per hour (but nobody says that or knots per hour!).

Refers to fuel drawn from the tank in a liquid form for some types of burner valves which is then vapourised in the burner coil before igniting on the pilot light.

Load Calculation
Before each flight the all up weight must be calculated, and a check made to ensure that this does not exceed the available lift, otherwise the envelope can easily be overheated.

Magnetic North
A compass shows magnetic North which points slightly to one side of the northerly direction, measured in degrees magnetic.

These are thrown at the targets and must be a streamer of specific weight balloon nylon. It has to be 170cm long, 10cm wide and be weighted with 70g of sand. They are usually brightly coloured to assist with location once thrown from the balloon.

Nautical mile
1.15 statute (normal) miles/1.85 kilometres.

Balloonists use a cobination of aeronautical charts which show controlled airspace (airports and flight paths) and military airspace as well.

A display of tethered balloons that takes place in the dark, when pilots turnm the burners on, the balloon envelopes glow like huge lanterns..... this although not very good for the life of a balloon can look wonderful, if all the pilots operate their burners and light up the balloons co-ordinated to music.

Nimbostratus Clouds
A lower thicker layer of cloud. Often produces long and steady rain at the warm front.

Official Observers
These are specifically trained volunteer balloonists who are responsible for inspecting, verifying and providing evidence for both competition and record attempt flights according to the given rules. Scoring is taken very seriously, with official observers and a panel of judges computing the score and at major events a jury is appointed to consider any protests.

Oragraphic Clouds
The name for clouds caused by the air being forced to rise by high ground.

Padded Covers
The Padded covers provide protection to thefuel cylinders for transportation and for when they are being removed from the basket for refuelling.

Parachute valve
This is the name for the deflation system that is used in most balloons, which is used for venting hot air as well as final deflation on landing.

Partitioned Baskets
A basket with wicker walls to proved compartments inside the basket to separate the passengers from the pilot who also has all the fuel cylinders. Which predominantly is to increase comfort for the passengers.

Passenger flights
Paying passengers book a weather dependant, flight with a company that sells balloon flights (see local tourist information for operator details) included in the usually hour long flight, is a champagne celebration at the end of the flight. All passengers are then returned by the crew to the start meeting point. It is advisable to wear: warm clothes, it can be cool first thing in the morning in the field even in summer; flat walking boots/shoes, and to take your camera.

Pilot declared goal
A similar task to the judge declared goal, except that the pilot declares his own goal by writing on a slip of paper and handing it in to the officials before take-off.

This is a term that should hopefully be fairly familiar! To become a balloon pilot requires a minimum of 16 hours flying instruction, a check flight with a CAA appointed examiner, a solo flight and various ground examination papers. These examinations concentrate on the following areas:
  • Navigation
  • Meteorology
  • Human performance and limitations
  • Balloon Systems
  • Aviation Law
If you pass you will obtain a Private Pilot's licence - Balloons and Airships. Actually you need to add the airships qualification later, but it nevertheless says this on the cover! The minimum age to do this is 17. With self discipline, the constant availability of a balloon, crew and instructor and a little luck with the weather it would be possible to do this in as little as 8 months to a year.

PPL-Private Pilot's Licence
The 'driving' test required to operate and fly a hot-air balloon consisting of both practical and theoretical examinations which vary slightly from country to country. This licence is not generally restricted to the local region or country although there are some country specific regulations.

Before starting to prepare the balloon for flight, the pilot should consider the balloon loading (passengers and fuel), the weather and the flight area to determine suitability for flight.

Pressure Gradient
This is the force responsible for starting a parcel of air moving. Air moving from high to low pressure.

Liquid under pressure (a good working average is between 80 psi and 180 psi).

Airfield pressure - adjusting an altimeter to this setting would read HEIGHT above the airfield at that pressure setting.

Regional pressure setting corrected at sea level - adjusting an altimeter to this setting should indicate height above sea level. (nb - to find out height above ground level you can use the map and work out a spot height or an global positioning system (a machine that uses satellites to measure position, altitude and speed travelling as well as grid references) and take that away from the height above sea level which is considered to start at zero feet.

Quick Release Mechanism
Used to restrain the balloon during inflation and heating for take-off, but should not be used for tethering.

Regional BBAC
These are local committees that provide monthly forums for local balloonists to get together, organise events and balloon meetings for their groups but primarily as a social function.

Rigging-Basket wires
The control lines inside the balloon are known as the rigging. The Basket wires are stainless steel wires running down from the burner frame to the basket, around underneath it, then back up to the opposite corners of the burner frame to complete a continuous sling. There are four of these slings and the basket sits inside them. There are also stainless steel wires connecting the envelope to the burner frame.

Special shape balloons
Hot-air balloons manufactured in the shape of products and not the natural round traditional shape.

Balloons can be sponsored as can competitions and record attempts in return for publicity; good examples of this is the Swiss company sponsored Breitling Orbiter 3 - the successful round the world balloon or in Germany the Warsteiner balloons sponsored by a beer company, who now have so many balloons they now have their own balloon meeting where they gather each year.

Surface Wind
Measured in knots and degrees in the direction it is coming FROM at about tree top height and this takes into account the friction of the wind over the Earth's surface which will reduce the effect of the coriolis force.

Each separate flight during a competition, usually encompassing morning and evening flights, weather permitting.

Tether Line-Ropes
Perhaps one of the most important extras to come with a balloon! This is used when anchoring the balloon to the ground (to large vehicles) for balloon displays or nightglows when the balloon is fully hot-inflated but is required to stay on the ground.

True North
The actual north according to calculation measured in degrees true.

Refers to the fuel drawn from the tank in a gas form for some types of burner valves although this should never be used for the main valves which are designed to use liquid propane.

The difference between true and magnetic North. Remembered by: Variation west, magnetic best; Variation East, magnetic least.

Warm front
Characteristics are 500 to 600 miles between the ground edge and the sloping into the sky edge, high cirrus clouds developing to form nimbostratus clouds and continuous rain.

This single thing that cannot be organised or planned in advance, However, balloonists can receive very up-to-date weather reports and forecasts.

Measured in knots and degrees in the direction it is coming FROM. e.g. 270 degrees is a wind going towards the East...