H is for Hot Air Balloons

Learning about Hot Air Balloons

When my husband and I got married I wanted nothing more than to ride in a hot air balloon during our honeymoon.  Thanks to the weather that almost didn’t happen, but we managed it and I’ve loved them ever since.

Somehow we managed to move into a neighborhood that is prime viewing for hot air balloons since they travel a path just to the west of us.  On occasion they get a bit closer than we expect, like practically landing in our backyard close.

Hot Air Balloon almost landing in our backyard.

The girls love to watch the balloons and we have a lot of fun telling them all about our experiences with them and what we’ve learned. For example, the flight path in Colorado, up in the mountains where we were is more of a square path allowing you to come back down in the same area you took off.  This is due to the air currents in the mountains, and the balloonist can move the balloon up or down to catch the current he wants to get the correct direction.  In Nebraska, where we live, with the flat land the air current goes in one direction, so usually you’ll take off in one spot and land a few miles, or several miles) away from where you started.

Colorado view from hot air balloon

Not only is the view from a hot air balloon beautiful, but it gives you an ariel view of the landscape. This can be a great addition to any homeschool lesson talking about topography.

Even the view looking up through the mouth of the balloon inside it (aka envelope) is beautiful and can hold some lessons about how a balloon is stitched together, such as the double lap seam, and how it works. For example the air release vent at the very top of the balloon allows the pilot to control ascent and descent.

looking into the envelope of the balloon

The heat for many hot air balloons is controlled with an open flame.  Below is a picture of the burner used in the balloon we rode in.  The pilot controls the release of propane which fuels the fire, heating the air which in turn makes the balloon rise. It’s kinda stinky and really warm when you’re close to it, but totally worth it.  If you ever ride in a hot air balloon the pilot will make sure you know all the safety precautions everyone should take.

hot air balloon burner

Finally, the basket is where people stand to ride in the balloon. Yes, below is a picture of my husband and I waving as our balloon rises in the air. On the right is Merlin, our pilot. He was an amazing man and I have to give a big shout out to Camelot Balloon Rides near Vail Colorado for a trip to remember! They do a great job and it’s extremely educational.

waving from the basket of the balloonThe balloon ride was fantastic, we learned a lot about hot air balloons, and the most important thing…the landing isn’t quite as gentle as the take off, but it’s still a lot of fun!

To summarize some of the educational benefits of learning about hot air balloons:

1. You can learn about the science of air, such as air currents and the effects of warming and cooling air. Learning a little meteorology to learn about ideal ballooning conditions is a great idea too.

2. History: Hot Air Balloons are one of the first methods of travel and have been used for many things, such as military observation, travel, and fun.  Maybe even take some time to learn about Steven Fossett, who maintains a record for ballooning around the world in the shortest time.

3. Geography: Studying the topography of the world, as well as seeing it from above can give a new perspective to anyone studying the lay of the land.

4. How about a little bit of engineering as you learn how a balloon works, how it’s put together and what it’s strengths and weaknesses are.

Have fun learning about balloons.  Someday we plan to attending the Nebraska Balloon Festival to learn even more about ballooning!

Have you ever ridden in a hot air balloon? Tell me about your experience or your opinion about riding if you’ve never had the opportunity.



    • Mary

      Haha, the second balloon had someone in it that was a little nervous about going up high so they didn’t go up as high as us. I loved every minute of being up there!

  • Mary

    I often see several hot air balloons flying in the skies above my community or landing in a nearby field. They used to drive my dog crazy as they flew close to the ground and you could hear the burners/air whooshing (for lack of the technical term) into the balloon. The balloons are beautiful and I think it would be awesome to see the landscape from them, but I don’t think I will ever get into one. I am content to watch from the ground.
    Mary visiting from The View from my World
    Mary recently posted…H is for HomeMy Profile

    • Mary

      I know the exact whooshing sound you’re talking about, and I think that’s a great word to describe it, although I’d call it a whoosh with a slight crackle. I can still remember the sound even after about 9 years!

  • Charity Craig

    Now I almost want to take a ride in a hot air balloon. I have an apprehension for heights, but you make it sound like a lovely adventure. We have something called a Balloon Glow here in St. Louis. Hundreds of balloons tether down and then light up. It’s stunning to see them glowing in the night. That’s about as adventurous my heart can stand. 🙂 Maybe someday I’ll take a ride. Maybe.
    Charity Craig recently posted…A Hole + Me In ItMy Profile

    • Mary

      If you ever do, just know unless they tell you you’re going to start going up or you’re looking at the ground to see, it’s such a gentle take off you don’t even notice. We were about 10 feet off the ground before we noticed we started moving, lol.

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