With the wind in your hair and the sun beaming down over glorious views, there's nothing quite like it - balloon flights! But how they work is a mystery to some. How can they support so many people? Why doesn't the balloon ever pop? Well, here are our top five facts to get you in the know and answer these questions!
1. Hot air balloons need lots of air. Before take-off, the envelope - which is the balloons technical name - is laid on the ground. A huge fan is then used to blow air into the envelope and inflate it. As the envelope is made from such lightweight material it fills with air quickly. Once the pilot is happy the envelope is filled, they will ignite the burner which heats the air inside. Watch how the balloon and the basket rise as the air heats up!
2. Hot air balloons cannot be steered directly by the pilot. This is why pilots can never promise their passengers that they will pass over a famous city landmark for example - it all depends on the direction and speed of the wind. To make sure the balloon doesn't move too slowly or quickly, pilots can make the balloon fly higher or lower. This way they can gauge the best wind speeds to help move the balloon along.
As the air in the envelope cools, it shrinks and this allows the whole balloon to descend back to ground. Pilots can change the level of the balloon so that it moves higher or lower by pumping more hot air into the balloon. The balloon can then descend quickly if the pilot pulls a cord connected to a vent at the top of the envelope. This allows air to escape rapidly.
The balloon is equipped with many gadgets and instruments. These include an altimeter which is used the measure the altitude the balloon is reaching. A variometer measures the vertical speed that the balloon is travelling. These are essential to all balloon rides as is a compass to gauge in which direction the balloon is moving.
The fuel used in hot air balloons is environmentally friendly. The gas that is normally used is liquid propane gas which can also be used for outdoor barbeques. This is not harmful to the environment as liquid propane is also clean burning, producing only water vapour and carbon dioxide.