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Balloon Info

The sport of hot air ballooning provides a mystery to most people! This mystery then is responsible for raising many questions. These questions might include the following:


Construction of today’s modern hot air balloon envelopes is usually rip stop nylon or polyester. This is a similar fabric that parachutes and \"K-WAY\" style pull-over jackets are made of. It has a weight of 1.1 oz. / yard - 2.5 oz. / yard.


Balloons can vary in size depending on what their purpose is. For example, a large balloon for passenger service can be up to 300,000 cubic feet and stand over 100 feet tall with a width of 80 feet. This size is capable of carrying 14 passengers plus the pilot. Small balloons that are designed to carry only the pilot, fuel and the burner could be as small as 30,000 cubic feet and may only be 40 feet tall. This size is referred to as a cloud-hopper and the pilot sits on a specially designed seat with no basket. The most common sizes would be 77,500 - 105,000 cubic feet, stand 65 feet tall and be about 57 feet wide at the equator. The RE/MAX balloons are 90,000 cubic feet.


All hot air balloons use propane. In our RE/MAX balloons we carry two 15 gallon, stainless steel fuel tanks. This is enough fuel to fly for about two hours.


The air is heated with burners. The RE/MAX balloons have a double burner system that outputs over 32 million B.T.U.’s (British Thermal Units). The extra burner adds additional safety and performance values. In comparison, an average gas barbecue generates about 40,000 B.T.U.’s and the furnace in an average house would generate 60,000 - 80,000 B.T.U.’s.


The three instruments that all balloons are required to carry are:

  • Pyrometer:
    This is a temperature sensitive device which tells the pilot the temperature at the top of the envelope. The sensor, which is located inside and at the very top , transmits the information to the instruments in the basket by either hard wire or infra-red light waves.

  • Altimeter:
    This informs the pilot of their altitude and the modern day versions are usually calibrated digitally and will display the read out in either feet or meters.

  • Variometer:
    This device indicates vertical speed and is usually calibrated as an analogue style instrument.

    In addition, balloons are required when flying close to an airport, to carry an aircraft radio to communicate with the control tower. They also might carry two way radios to communicate with the chase crew on the ground.


    Each flight consists of four basic elements. These are:

    1. Pre-flight:

    This always precedes the actual flight. This is the time to plan the flight. It would include a detailed weather briefing from either the Flight Service Station or the weather office. As well, the authority to fly is obtained from the airport if one is near by. Passengers are called to arrange a meeting point and ground crew is organized. A launch site is also selected based on all of the data collected including the availability of landing sites where a flight might end.

    2. Inflation and launch:

    Upon arriving at the launch site, the equipment is unloaded and rigged. Then an inflation fan is used to ‘cold inflate’ the envelope. Once it is almost full, the burners are used to heat the air to a point where it will stand up. After a quick visual inspection, the passengers are boarded and more heat is added until the command is given, \"hands off\".

    3. Flight:

    This begins when the balloon leaves the ground and until it lands. During the flight, various flight levels will usually provide winds with small directional changes. A flight over a town or city would fly between 500’ - 1500’. If the flight is over the country, altitudes might be low enough to \"tree-top\" , brush the top of corn or might even include some \"touch-and-goes\".

    4 Landing:

    When it is time to land, this is accomplished by cruising at a low altitude until an appropriate site is spotted. This depends on many factors. They would include the proximity of power lines, size of the field, what type of field it is, crops, livestock and wind speed. After all of these considerations, a site is selected. By using the burners and the vent, a desirable rate of descent is established and the balloon lands. After the chase crew has obtained permission from the landowner or the appropriate authority, they enter the property. The equipment is then packed up and loaded and we are finished for another day. On occasion, we sometimes will share a bottle of champagne with the landowner. This honors a 200 year tradition established to appease angry landowners when balloonists were mistaken for intruders.


    Balloons can fly in all four seasons. Many people prefer to fly in the summer or the fall, but each season has something unique to offer. The summer offers long days, warm temperatures and dry fields. On the other hand, some enjoy the spectacular fall collage of colours! But winter and spring can be just as enjoyable. Winter provides clear days with terrific visibility, free from all of that troublesome humidity. In addition, the availability of landing sites increase. All the crops are gone, fields are snow covered and livestock is in the barn. Spring brings a new beginning. Trees are budding and a fresh smell is in the air. Fields can be soft and this can prevent easy recovery of the equipment. Although \"April showers, bring May flowers\", it is the most difficult month for us to fly in. Balloons are also limited by daily weather. They are limited to basic VFR (visual flight rules) by Transport Canada since we don’t have the ability to fly by instruments. We are also sensitive to wind and precipitation. Our limit is about 10 knots of wind speed and we don’t fly in the rain or snow.


    Transport Canada regulates ballooning the same way they regulate other forms of aviation. Since a balloon is considered a registered aircraft, the procedures established provide a protocol for pilot licensing and maintenance of the aircraft. A student pilot is required to pass a ground school training course that teaches the Air Regulations, Aeronautical Act, Air Navigation Orders, meteorology, radio protocol, navigation and the academic portion of ballooning. The actual flight training requires a minimum of 16 hours of dual instruction, a practical understanding and a demonstration of all emergency procedures, 2 solo ascents of not less than 30 min. and one ascent to a minimum of 5000 feet. As well, a student must be 16 years old and all pilots must pass a medical exam every two years. When a student pilot satisfies all of these requirements, they will be granted a licence. Instructors are balloon pilots who have completed an instructor’s course. This entitles them to have their licence endorsed as a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor). Commercial pilots must have a minimum of 50 hours as pilot in command to fly passengers for hire or fly a corporate balloon such as the RE/MAX balloon. Just as a car can be legally driven by a teenager, a balloon can be flown by a newly licensed pilot. It is important to remember that with increasing the number of hours flown a pilot’s skills should increase proportionally!
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