Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon… Yes, these are lyrics from a slightly cheesy song from the 60’s. But they are also a dream come true for a lot of people. Floating in the beautiful blue sky, the wind in their hair as the hot air balloon drifts loftily along, is something that many Metro Detroiters would love to do.
For others, myself included, this is seen as a challenge of sorts. I have this slight (okay, major) fear of heights and prefer to have both feet planted firmly on the ground. However, every time I see one of those magnificent hot air balloons floating gently in the evening sky, I feel this unexplainable urge to go up in one.
So, I set about seeing exactly what goes on during a hot air balloon ride. My thought process being, that if I learned more about it, I would feel brave enough to actually try it! Here is what I found out.
Hot air ballooning is actually the oldest successful flight technology. It has been around since the 1700’s! A hot air balloon is composed of three parts: the envelope (the actual fabric balloon), the burner (the unit that propels the heat into the balloon causing it to rise) and the basket (where the pilot and passengers stand). Hot air balloons operate on a very basic principle. Hot air rises. The pilot can control the ascent or descent of the balloon by opening and closing a valve. When the flame from the burner is going, it heats up the air in the balloon causing it to rise.
That flame did throw me a bit. Flame plus lightweight fabric equals (in my mind) a bad combination. However, I learned that the balloon material, especially the fabric around the mouth of the envelope, is fire resistant. Though it seems like a no brainer, it was still nice to discover that!
Although pilots can somewhat control where a balloon is traveling, the wind is really the deciding factor. That is why almost all hot air balloon rides are taken at dusk and dawn, when wind conditions are most favorable. If the weather is not cooperating, the pilot will not take you up. Knowing this fact made me feel pretty good about the prospect of hot air ballooning.
Even with my abject fear of heights, hot air ballooning is something I do want to try one day. If you too are someone who is considering taking flight in the near future, here are a few companies that offer hot air balloon rides in the Metro Detroit Area:
www.balloonride.com – Fenton
www.skyadventures.com – Oxford
www.westwindcos.com/balloon – Plymouth
www.flyballoons.net – Pontiac
www.renaissanceballoons.com – Howell