Flight

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Once the balloon is inflated and all of the checklists have been completed, the pilot burns some more to make the balloon lighter than air, and it lifts off.

See you later!  This balloon will fly today to the unusually (for balloons)  high altitude of 12,000', encountering temperatures almost as low as 0F (-18C).  Most balloon flights are at altitudes from a few hundred to a couple of thousand feet, at most.

On this particular day, the surface winds are gentle and allow us the opportunity of a picture from directly below, before the balloon drifts away.

The view from directly below the balloon.  Here you can see the gores that make up the structure of the envelope.  This balloon, a 105,000 cubic foot Firefly 8, has 24 gores.  Balloons typically have from 8 gores (very bulbous) on up to envelopes like the one shown here that are almost smooth.

The pilot adjusts the altitude and rate of ascent or descent of the balloon by changing the timing of blasts from the burner, but each blast is typically of the same duration.  The instruments on board (an altimeter to indicate altitude, a variometer, to indicate rate of ascent or descent and a pyrometer to indicate the temperature of the air inside the balloon) help, but flying a balloon is primarily an acquired skill that is very visual in nature.  The pilot can not directly affect the direction of flight.  However, by climbing or descending, he may be able to find winds of varying directions to achieve a modest degree of steering.

Next:  Landing and Pack-up

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