Glossary Of Ballooning Terms

This glossary is not intended to be all-inclusive, but it will enable you to sound like you know what you're talking about if you should ever book a flight, go to a rally, or be a spectator at a launch or landing site.

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aeronaut - a balloon pilot

ambient temperature - temperature of the air surrounding a balloon

altimeter - an instrument which measures the altitude at which the balloon is flying

ballast - heavy material added to the gondola of a balloon to increase stability

barometric pressure - atmospheric measurement used in weather forecasting

balloon - a lighter-than-air aircraft fueled by either propane or helium.  Unlike a blimp or dirigible, a balloon is not motorized.

basket - the suspended portion of the balloon which carries pilot or passengers.  It is made out of rattan wicker.  It has a padded edge around the top of suede or leather

blast (or trigger) valve - the high-pressure fuel valve used to introduce heat into the envelope.

Btu's - British thermal unit, a measurement of energy

burners - The balloon's engine, consisting of heating coils, propane jets, and pilot light.  Most balloons have two types of burners incorporated into them. They have main burners and also a 'whisper' system which is quieter than the main burner.

buoyancy - the upward force that a fluid exerts on a object less dense than itself.

cubic foot - a measurement of space one foot wide by one foot deep by one foot high

chase vehicle - usually a pickup truck or four-wheel drive vehicle with attached trailer that follows the path of the balloon during flight and transports pilot, passengers & equipment

crew chief - individual designated by the pilot who is responsible for coordinating the duties of other crew members.  He/she is the pilot's representative on the ground during flight and also frequently handles crowd control, landowner relations, and questions from spectators.

crown-line(s) - one or more handling lines that are attached to a ring at the top of the envelope.  These are used to control the balloon during inflation, and are generally tied-off to one of the uprights during flight.

density - the volume of a substance per unit of mass

envelope - The envelope is the part of the balloon that inflates. It is made up of a number of gores, which are themselves made up of a number of smaller panels. .

fabric - The fabric that is used to make hot-air balloons is known as ripstop nylon.  It is specially woven with crisscross reinforcement threads to help prevent tearing.

fuel tanks - The fuel tanks or cylinders are tanks of liquid propane gas.

gores - the individual panels that make up the envelope of a balloon

gross weight - the total weight of a balloon, including passengers

helium - a colorless, odorless inert gas used to provide lift for balloons

humidity - moisture in the air

hydrogen - a colorless, highly flammable gas formerly used in gas balloons

hygrometer - an instrument used to measure the humidity in the atmosphere

inflammable gas - gas that will not burn or ignite

inflating appendix - the nozzle or orifice used to inflate a gas balloon

inflator fan - The initial inflation(cold inflation) of the envelope is done with an inflator fan.  They may have either three bladed or four bladed fans to improve their efficiency, and they come in a range of power depending on the size of envelope that needs to be filled.

instruments - Pilots carry a variety of instruments, and one of the most important of these may be the GPS (Global Positioning System). This uses satellite transmissions to pinpoint exactly where the balloon is to an accuracy of within 100 meters. Wind instruments and an altimeter are clearly important as well.

latex - a rubber product used to coat envelope material in a balloon

load tapes - the vertical tapes sewn into a balloon onto which the load of the gondola is attached

meteorology - the study of weather

mouth - the open end of the envelope.

nylon - a high-strength man made material used in the construction of balloon envelopes

pressurized - a cabin or airframe that is built to maintain normal atmospheric pressure inside

polyester - a synthetic resin used to waterproof cloth

pyrometer - an instrument which measures the temperature of the balloon at the top (also referred to as the temperature gauge). Balloon fabrics have varying "never-exceed" temperatures ranging from 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

rigging - Stainless steel wires run down from the burner frame to the basket, around underneath it, then back up to the opposite corners of the burner frame to complete a continuous sling. There are four of these slings and the basket sits inside them. There are also stainless steel wires connecting the envelope to the burner frame.

rip-line - a line which runs from the parachute top or valve, down the inside of the envelope which, when pulled, releases hot air and initiates a descent. It is most often colored red, hence the term "red-line".

rip panel - a panel in the envelope of a balloon that can be opened rapidly to deflate the balloon upon landing .

skirt - frequently made of Nomex, the skirt is a detachable extension of the envelope which serves to shelter the burner and helps channel air into the balloon during inflation and in flight.

spherical - shaped like a globe, round three dimensional, like a ball

tether line Used to keep the balloon in place until the pilot  is ready to launch.

throat - the area of the envelope immediately above the mouth and skirt.

valve or vent - opening in the top (or, in some models, sides) of the balloon through which hot air can be released to initiate a descent or a landing.

variometer - the instrument which measures the rate of ascent or descent of the balloon.

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