Ballooning, an illustrated talk

Ultrasonic but slow!

By Nick Turner

On the evening of 17th March, 2011 at the Hadleigh Gardening Association meeting in the Methodist Church Hall, Chapel Lane in Hadleigh, Sue Kidd and Edward Lubbock talked on Ballooning.

Inflation for Altitude 

The speakers described their enthusiasm for a sport which involves giant envelopes containing either hot air or gas.   Gas balloons are rounder and some use hydrogen. 

Photo:Sue Kidd and Edward Lubbock

Sue Kidd and Edward Lubbock

N Turner

 ( Audible gasps from those in the audience who recall past disasters with airships using this gas.) It appears that hydrogen is now freely available from some German factories, but inflating a gas balloon takes four or five hours, and involves a small army of well drilled helpers.

Hot air balloons have more of a pear-drop shape; and Sue showed the small car-towed trailer that contains the basket and the surprisingly small, bin-bag sized envelope when packed away.  That envelope is inflated with 90,000 cubic feet of hot air to take off.

Hot air balloons are also the type used for the most adventurous advertising forms, almost everything having been used to inspire their shapes; from a recent 3D cartoon film  to a motorcycle and rider where what appears to be the motor-bike’s twist-grip part of the balloon is over 6 feet in length.   The most expensive are around £150,000 but the more normal 90,000 cu ft balloons would be less than £20,000.

One of the famous ballooning books to which the speakers referred is “Throw out two hands”  which apparently means two handfuls of the sand ballast and not the crew.

The author Anthony Smith was flying over the Masai Mara in his hydrogen gas balloon “Jambo” and the meeting then saw the result of an accident to that balloon in the shape of a large ball of flame, fortunately with no fatalities.

The Territory of Unpredictability

Edward and Sue use a 1” OS map to navigate, avoiding electricity pylons and 300,000 volt power lines. Their well-used 1” map of Essex showed red-lined places with a reference number and the minimum height in feet allowed over them.  Some are turkey and ostrich farms, the owners believing that the birds are scared by balloons. The sensitivity of dogs to balloons may be due to ultrasonic waves from the burners, which suggests a possible explanation for concern by some animals and farmers.

Considering that balloons are subject to the vagaries of wind and weather, it is not so surprising that one of the skills required is an ability to negotiate amicably with land-owners.  Sometimes negotiation does not work, hence the reason for their balloon’s registration letters, G-SUED,  having a legal flavour.

Photo:G-SUED being inflated

G-SUED being inflated

London Ballooning

There are 200 women and 2000 men qualified to fly balloons in the UK and the sport is relatively safe, with (only?) five fatalities since 1968.  However, some degree of stoicism is evidently also a factor, as Sue recounted her novel introduction to the delights of RHS Hyde Hall.  Her landing there was so firm that she was thrown out of the basket and cracked a rib or two.  

Several of the slides showed mass launches in several countries of scores of balloons for races and competitions.  The biggest meeting in the world is hosted in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the USA, but the biggest manufacturer of hot air balloons in based in Bristol!

Apparently for some competitors, the thrill of spending 72 hours aloft in an open basket as the fleet of balloons crossed the North Sea from Belgium to Norfolk,  thence north to the Arctic Circle and back down over Norway to Finland was only heightened by hearing a disembodied voice from the darkness call them in for a meal as they crossed the sea at night.  That proved to be the chow call for an oil rig they were flying over.  



London Ballooning

One of the pictures Sue and Edward showed was a very rare sight of a balloon over Stansted airport; normally forbidden, but made possible whilst all fixed-wing flights were grounded during the volcanic ash alert.    For those interested in getting more details of this inherently unpredictable sport, the web details for the London Ballooning club are below.   The gardeners present are all familiar with unpredictability, though for us the results can take an entire growing season to unfold.  For Sue and Edward, their flights clearly keep them on the edge of their basket and their presentation conveyed every ounce of their enthusiasm!

Any errors in this summary are the responsibility of the author and not the lecturers or the HGA.  



Technical Footnote

90,000 cubic feet of air at 15 Degrees C ( 59 Degrees F ) weighs about 6,885 pounds ( 3,123 Kilos)

90,000 cubic feet of air at 45 Degrees C (113 Degrees F) weighs about 6,235 pounds ( 2,828 Kilos)

Lift generated with  30 Degrees temperature rise is therefore about 650 pounds or ( 295 Kg )

This page was added by Nick Turner on 01/04/2011.