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Ballooning trivia
Spring 2003      

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The Balloonist’s Prayer

Ballooning trivia

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Ballooning trivia

    Balloons in the sky
  • Lighter-than-air was the first aviation. On Sept. 19, 1783, a sheep, a duck and a chicken were the first balloon passengers in a demonstration flight for King Louis XVI. They all survived the trip, giving the king some assurance that human beings could breathe the atmosphere at a higher elevation.

  • Balloons were used for reconnaissance during the French Revolution and the American Civil War.

  • Modern hot air balloons heat the air by burning propane, the same substance commonly used in outdoor cooking grills.

  • Balloons are aircraft regulated under the same Federal Aviation Administration regulations as other aircraft categories. A Balloon Pilot Certificate is issued by the FAA after a written exam, a prescribed number of hours of instruction, a solo flight, a flight to a specific altitude and a flight test.

  • The cost of a hot air balloon and gear is about the same as a car — $15,000-$20,000 and up.

  • Passengers riding in commercial hot air balloons pay approximately $200 per person for an hour of flight.

  • Pilots fly balloons early in the morning, right after sunrise, and late in the day, right before sunset — two of the most beautiful times of day. This is when the wind is calmest since the sun is low in the sky.

  • Optimal wind speed for balloons is three to five miles per hour, with a maximum safe wind speed of 10 miles per hour.

  • Pilots prefer to say balloons inflate, not blow up; balloons are on approach, not coming down; and balloons kiss, not bang heads.

  • At balloon festivals, children collect balloon trading cards as passionately as they collect baseball cards. During competitive flying events, spectators cheer and clap for pilots just like they would for their favorite batter.

  • Another major attraction at balloon festivals is the balloon glow at sunset. Pilots fire the burners of their tethered balloons to illuminate them. The balloons glow like stained-glass light bulbs.

  • To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Plano Balloon Festival — the largest balloon festival in the state — the Legislature officially designated Plano the Hot Air Balloon Capital of Texas in 1999.

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