What's on Tap

What's on Tap

It takes teamwork to get hot air balloons aloft

Posted May 24, 2015

— As the sun came up over Zebulon on Sunday, so did the hot air balloons.

“It usually takes about 10-15 minutes to put a basket together and get it ready to inflate, said Dave Ford, a balloon crew member.

A crew of four assembled the basket and made sure the pilot had enough fuel for a day at the WRAL Freedom Balloon Festival.

“Normally, two 20-gallon tanks will last a couple of hours,” Ford said. “It depends on the weight, the temperature - everything is a variable. Every flight is different.”

Once the craft was laid out, cold air was forced into the balloon, which is called the envelope. After that, burners filled it with hot air, which made the balloon pop up.

“You have 40 million BTUs an hour coming out of that thing,” Ford said. “That’s more powerful than a fighter jet - we can heat 16 houses with it - so it doesn’t take long to put the amount of heat in it.”

From inside the basket, much of the hard work was done. But outside the basket, the crew still had to stabilize the balloon using a rope attached at the top.

“What does it take out of me? Well, you’re pulling hard,” crew member Dave Palmer said.

A hot-air balloon is about 800 pounds of equipment, but with the added mass of the air, the craft is about 12,000 pounds.

What may seem so effortless to spectators is actually quite a team effort.

“It’s not as simple as it looks,” Ford said.


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