1. Basket and burner assembly
The basket is unloaded from the trailer and the burners are installed at the top of the 4 uprights. Carabiners then connect the basket cables to the burner frame. The gas burner hoses get connected to steel or titanium liquid draw propane tanks in the pilot compartment. Once all fittings are connected a safety check is performed to make sure there are no leaks and that the burners (some balloons use a single burner some large balloons use up to 4) are working properly. At that time the basket is laid on its side.
2. Unfurling of the balloon envelope
Hot air balloon envelopes super heavy and weigh between 200lb and 500lbs. Many balloon pilots choose to build rolling carts, making it much easier to unload them out of the bag. Once the balloon is stretched out, the Carabiners on the balloon are connected to the carabiners on the basket.
3. Inflation of the balloon
Hot air balloons range in size from 60k cubic feet to 500k cubic feet and are over 100 feet tall. This means Inflating a balloon with cold air takes a lot of breath. Just kidding. Hot air balloon pilots use gas-powered fans to cold inflate the balloon.
Two people hold open the “mouth” of the balloon and another crew member heads to the top of the envelope to install the parachute. The parachute is actually the top of the balloon that is held in place by both pressure and lines during flight. The parachute is used to release hot air out of the balloon during landing procedures. During the inflation process, velcro tabs connect the parachute to the balloon fabric. Once the hot air balloon is upright, the red line will be activated. The velcros will release and the parachute will set in place.
4. Turning on the burner
The propane is compressed in the cylinders and flows to the burner as a liquid. When the blast valve is fired the propane vapor gets ignited by the pilot light. On each burn, propane flows through the tubing and gets heated into a vapor. It takes multiple 3-5 second burns to get enough heat in the envelope for it to stand up.
5. Launching the hot air balloon
Hot air balloon burners create a massive amount of heat! Each individual burner can unload 20 million BTUs in a single pull of the blast valve. Trying to figure out how hot that is? Your BBQ is about 70,000 BTUs. Once the balloon is upright and stabilized, passengers are welcomed aboard. Getting into a balloon basket is kind of like getting on a horse. Passengers put one foot in a foothold and swing their other leg into the basket. Once everyone is in the basket and situated, the pilot will explain where to hold on and what to do upon landing. At that point, the pilot activates the burner and the balloon ride is on!