Hot air ballooning

Ballooning refers to the aviation balloon with gas and hot air balloon, especially with free balloons, as with captive balloons ( at the bottom moored ) can not be "driven". Driven ( steerable ) " balloons " are known as airships and treated as a separate Luftfahrzeugart; in the following only the balloons are described in the narrower sense.

The principle of a balloon

A balloon has a gas-tight casing which is filled with a propellant gas, which is lighter than the air surrounding it. This causes the buoyancy of the balloon. The density difference between the gas in the balloon envelope ( hot air or helium / hydrogen) and the ambient air is so great that even large and heavy loads can be carried by a balloon: per m³ developed hydrogen approximately 1.203 kg buoyancy. A 12,000 m³ balloon can thus have a total weight ( without gas ) of 14,436 kg.

A balloon may have a maximum volume of 12,000 m³ in Germany. Hot air balloons for transport of persons are usually 3000-5000 m³ large, gas balloons 500 - 1000m ³. As Racer ( competition Balloons) Balloons of 1600 are - 2600 m³ respectively.

Driving or flying

Balloonist distinguish between flying and driving. Companion which are lighter than air, like balloons, driving in this usage, while aircraft that are heavier than air flying. This could have a historical origin. Already the first balloonist spoke of the " ballooning " since they took over the vocabulary of seafaring.

In common usage, the distinction is not common.

Driving experience

The speed of a balloon is dependent on the local wind speed. At the start and during the landing speeds of well under 20 km / h should prevail. In addition, must be no or only very small thermals. While driving are 40 km / h even as swiftly. Over the Alps also speeds of over 100 km / h in Fönsturm example, but possible.

Theoretically, the height of normal recreational balloons are limits at about 9,000 meters. Passenger trips usually take place between 300 and 3000 meters. Factors are the prevailing weather conditions, the location and the loading of the balloon. In mountains even heights of over 6,000 meters can be achieved from 3000 meters but only with oxygen equipment for the occupants.

At the maximum journey time of hot air balloons above two factors play a significant role:

  • The gas supply, especially for hot air balloons;
  • The weather conditions.

Usually put balloons during a ride in one to two hours 5-30 km Return. The gas balloon can take several days and nights. Rides with gas balloons are silent in contrast to the hot air balloon.

It is also possible at night to go with a balloon. To be allowed to do this, the pilot needs a night driver training. Usually one starts before sunrise to land again in the light. Since the balloon is not or only slightly controlled landing on an unfamiliar area in the dark of night would be associated with a high risk.

Since the balloon moves with the wind, no wind in the balloon basket. However one feels in strong rise or fall wind from "above " or "from below ".

Takeoff and landing

The safety of persons in the basket has in the takeoffs and landings highest priority. Offs are approved by each aerodrome / launch site possible. To start outside, that starts to perform outside of these approved courses, the respective pilot need an external start authorization and consent of the property owner. The external start authorization requires min. 50 hours as PIC ( Pilot in Command ) and a review by a decrease authorized person (usually accountants). A balloon has a permanent outdoor landing permission. The balloon pilot must land anywhere, but he should maintain the proportionalities. ( A landing on a motorway junction or in a football stadium is quite possible and remains unpunished, unless there is a reason for landing at this location such as technical difficulties ). A forward-looking pilot avoids such areas. An old Ballonerweisheit says: landing always on top of the lawn, it will automatically be smaller / shorter.

Driving history

There is obviously no mechanical way the balloon to pass a change in direction. The only way to direct the balloon, is to change the height and thus possibly the direction and the speed. In different heights, different winds may prevail, which are used for a change of direction. Nowadays, most pilots tablet PCs use to visualize the changes of direction on the map. The screenshots show a balloon ride with extreme changes of direction at different heights.

License and legal situation

To guide a balloon, you need a pilot's license (PPL -D). The training is divided into a theoretical and practical part. The theoretical part includes questions from the areas of air law, meteorology, navigation, engineering, Operational Procedures and Human Performance. The practical part includes at least 20 hours ballooning and 50 take-offs and landings, the average is about 30-40 hours. The examinations are conducted by the local district government. The training in Germany is done by commercial schools as well as balloon sports clubs. For the complete training is expected to cost 3500-6000 euros.

If during landing, damage to property of others have arisen, the insurance of the driver must pay for the damage. Also, the property owner has the right to request the personal details like name, address etc. of the pilot. However, it may not prevent the landing in Germany and the removal of the balloon. Abroad, other rules apply.

Every 100 hours or once a year, a balloon by an expert of the Federal Aviation Agency as part of an annual inspection on its airworthiness checks ( JNP ).

Material stress

The high temperatures sometimes exceeding 100 ° C and the UV radiation set of hot air balloon envelope too massive. Depending on the care holds a hot air balloon envelope between 400 and 600 hours of operation. Burner and basket last twice as long.


For events, the so-called balloon glow is often performed. Here, the balloons are filled and the burner head up to the beat of the music.

Balloon types

Depending on the filling of the balloons (FAI - Class A - Free Balloons), a distinction between a hot air balloon ( Class AX ) and a gas balloon ( Class AA). So we filled the gas-tight casing with air, so it is a hot air balloon, with the use of helium or hydrogen from a gas balloon speech. These two types are easy to distinguish by their shape: Gas balloons are spherical, pear-shaped hot air balloons. Hot air balloon sleeves are available as well as other special shapes. Already one of the first balloonist, Pilâtre de Rozier, the two balloon types combined together and thus invented the named after him Rozière (Class AM).

The FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale ) evaluates records in terms of duration, height and distance in size categories. It is permissible for the actual volume is 5% higher than the nominal size. This has the following common balloon sizes:

  • 2: 250-400 m³
  • 3: 401-600 m³
  • 4: 601-900 m³
  • 5: 901-1200 m³
  • 6: 1201-1600 m³
  • 7: 1601-2200 m³
  • 8: 2201-3000 m³
  • 9: 3001-4000 m³
  • 10: 4001-6000 m³
  • 11: 6001-9000 m³
  • 12: 9001-12000 m³

Balloon baskets

Balloon baskets are usually made of a wooden base plate with reinforced stainless steel frame, reinforced by two steel cables built. For the side elements rattan and leather are often used. Balloon baskets are available in different sizes for 1 to 3 pilots and up to a maximum of 16 passengers.

To get to the basket in, you usually must climb over the side. During the trip, are the pilot and all passengers depending on the size and distribution of the basket interior in up to 5 separate compartments.

Since 1994 there is a basket that is equipped with 2 seats and a galley, awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest restaurant in the world. The equipment of the basket has been specially approved by the Federal Aviation Authority, the district of Harburg granted a restaurant license.

On September 23, 2008, attend a wheelchair user in an accessible special model of a balloon basket on a drive in Isenbuttel for the first time in Germany after the special basket had been taken off the end of April from the Federal Aviation Authority in Brunswick.

Special shapes

In some cases, people develop special forms of ballooning. So the truck driver Larry Walters rose on July 2, 1982 in Los Angeles with the help of 42 helium balloons, which he had fastened to a garden chair, 5000 meters high. The air pistol with which he wanted to shoot some balloons to controls to sink, he lost during the flight. Because Walters was also charged on the maximum height of ascent and was driven into the airspace of the airport of Los Angeles, there was a grotesque situation: The pilot of an airliner on final approach reported to the Tower, he was at a height of 16,000 feet at a man flew in a garden chair.

Balloon peerage

It is an old tradition. In the early days of ballooning, only blue-blooded man with a balloon could take to the air. King Louis XVI. of France issued after the invention of hot air balloons, a law according to which only the nobility balloon was allowed to drive. Of course, this is no longer the case, however, one has from this developed the custom of the " balloonist baptism " and thus inclusion in the " balloon peerage ".

ID on the balloon envelope

All balloons are approved in Germany are registered with the Federal Aviation Authority in Brunswick and from there get assigned an identifier that is composed is as follows: D stands for Germany, O stands for a free balloon and the other three letters are assigned freely.

In Austria approved balloons identifiers carry the form OE -ABC, namely country code, a hyphen and three letters.


In addition to some special applications Balloons found today mainly in air sports use. In Germany, the balloonists are predominantly organized eV in German Balloon Sports Federation.

List of balloon accidents

Footnotes and References