Thinking about a Hot Air Balloon

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Ted DuPuis, Oct 31, 2019.

  1. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    You've been waiting for a new "thinking about" thread, well here it is!

    Ok you weren't waiting for it, but here it is anyway.

    Laurie and I have been thinking about getting a hot air balloon. Really we've been curious about it for a few months, and going to the balloon fiesta in Albuquerque had us more interested. She's taking the lead with this one and is really into it. I am, too. While I normally am one for varying levels of more controlled flight, I've always found balloons intriguing. Especially flying the MU-2 in such a highly controlled, IFR, high up environment (and for Laurie in the Challenger she's literally flying twice as high) ballooning will offer a nice balance to that. After seeing the balloon fiesta in ABQ we found ourselves thinking this would be a good idea.

    From what we can tell so far ballooning is a world that's got a lot of differences from powered flight. For one, there's now CFI-LTA, if you have your commercial LTA then you can instruct. It's a very small community and DPEs are few.

    One thing that's different is the norms with purchase of the aircraft. In the fixed wing or rotor wing world, we generally tell people not to buy an airplane first - first just learn in a rental and then figure out what you want. Not so in ballooning! There are very few balloons nationwide you can rent for instruction. Part of the reason for this is that for $10k you can get into a used balloon that's a reasonable first balloon. But also few people want to do the insurance for instructing in their balloons - sort of like twins. Albuquerque does have balloon pilot mills, but the hourly rates are surprisingly high.

    When you start to look at the costs, a balloon to train in makes sense. By the time you look at the costs of renting, hotel, etc. to travel someplace to do the rating (not to mention how many times you may have to do it if the weather doesn't cooperate), you can basically buy a balloon and set it on fire after your rating and break even.

    So we've started looking at different brands (Mitsubishi doesn't make balloons, which makes it harder to find the best manufacturer out there) and started to work on understanding what sort of balloon we want in terms of size, capability, and the like.

    We've figured that a 77,000 cubic foot balloon is about what we want. Normally I want bigger and more capacity, but in the case of a balloon, much above 77k cuft means that it would be something that truly requires a crew beyond Laurie and me. While having helpers is a good thing, we really want to aim for a setup that we can crew ourselves. This still provides a large enough basket for one of us and a passenger (whether we're flying together or bringing along an instructor or friend), and potentially a second passenger depending on weight and conditions.

    We've started reading through the FAA's Balloon Flying Handbook. It's been a while since I've been studying towards any new rating, and I find some of the things in this quite humorous. Some almost literal quotes (I'm going from memory here) include:

    - "If passengers are planned for the flight, refreshments should be provided."
    - "One of the challenges of cold weather operations is keeping warm."
    - "Flying in rain should be avoided, as the balloon will get wet."

    Laurie and I have been cracking up reading some of it, but there is also some good information in there, especially for either people starting off with LTA as an initial rating or someone who's not used to flying other than in an IFR environment (like us).
     
  2. Weekend Warrior

    Weekend Warrior Pre-takeoff checklist

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    So I'm curious: where do you find used hot air balloons for sale?

    I just did a quick check on barnstomers.com and found no balloons.
     
  3. MuseChaser

    MuseChaser Cleared for Takeoff

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    Why am I envisioning an old "F-Troop" clip in my head?
     
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  4. PPC1052

    PPC1052 En-Route

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    I'm thinking that they are really impractical for animal rescue flights. Have you really thought this through?
     
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  5. Bell206

    Bell206 Pattern Altitude

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    An older employee at my former day job was into balloons and used to enjoy getting other people interested in flying them. Those who were interested simply volunteered to be ground/chase crew and those that stuck around he would start showing them the ropes so to speak. After a number of flights, the ones that took it farther transitioned into their own balloons with relative ease. Perhaps find a local pilot and help him with his rig and get your "air" legs practiced...as he used to say. But I can tell you flying in a balloon is pretty cool.
     
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  6. Grum.Man

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  7. skier

    skier Line Up and Wait

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  8. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    That part has been a challenge because we were looking in all the places that fixed wing pilots look. Mostly we've had luck finding ones to look at on Facebook, and then if you get into the groups some people "know a guy". A lot of it is word of mouth.

    I can assure you we won't be transporting animals.

    That's the brand we're looking at, actually.
     
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  9. PPC1052

    PPC1052 En-Route

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    More important than the size is to get one equipped the way that you want. You are never going to get out what you put into the panel, so it's best to find one that's already equipped with an IFR GPS. You don't want to be caught above the clouds with no way to get down. Plus if it's already equipped, then you can train for your balloon IFR rating in what you plan to fly.
     
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  10. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    I've had a hard time finding one with a GTN 750 and a pair of G5s... :(

    We may look at that at some point and certainly appeals That said for now no, we aren't looking at that.
     
  11. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man En-Route

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    They landed in my front yard once. Helped them load the basket up and got a little pin for helping lol
     
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  12. ja_user

    ja_user Pattern Altitude

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    So I would suggest talking to all the Balloon people in the area that you can. Buy them lunch or something, there are at least half dozen in the county.
     
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  13. ja_user

    ja_user Pattern Altitude

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    People are happy when a Balloon lands out on their property, less so with a glider, and not at all with a fixed wing.
     
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  14. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    We're already making contacts there.
     
  15. ja_user

    ja_user Pattern Altitude

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    It is generally a friendly bunch of folks.
     
  16. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Possibly a test platform for that cool new Garmin Autoland?
     
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  17. IK04

    IK04 Pattern Altitude

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    Can one be had with an emergency parachute? How about autoland?
     
  18. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    The whole "landing out" concept is something that I'm not entirely mentally comfortable with being used to landing at airports and having been raised that you don't wander on to someone else's property. However around here, and especially where we'll be launching from (our house) I would be less concerned about it and we have lots of good options for landing.

    Since you have effectively no directional control, you do have to plan based on winds and luck, and to some extent the ground crew to help.
     
  19. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I've had to go break off my approach to KAPC more than once to avoid an errant balloon that strayed in to the Class D.
     
  20. ja_user

    ja_user Pattern Altitude

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    Just stay away from the livestock and you aren't going to really **** anyone off.
     
  21. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    We're not too far from a couple of Class Ds so yes, that's something we'll have to keep track of. But we're also figuring most of our flying will be pretty low to the ground.

    I wouldn't want to land in a cow pasture for multiple reasons anyway...
     
  22. DaleB

    DaleB En-Route

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    I thought about a balloon, briefly. My son is interested, his coworker is buying a balloon, my nephew has his license now, and his uncle (my sister's brother-in-law) holds numerous records... Google "Rich Jaworski".

    I'm just not wild about needing to round up a few friends every time I feel like flying... not that it would be all that often around here, with the weather we typically have.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
  23. Sam D

    Sam D Cleared for Takeoff

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    Really? I've heard its a good idea to start with a sheep, a duck and a rooster.
     
  24. TCABM

    TCABM Cleared for Takeoff

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    You’re thinking about threads seem to have low latency to execution. Can we expect Engineer Ted’s tips to keep your envelope afloat shortly?
     
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  25. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    I try to avoid posting advice until I have sufficient experience to be able to speak with some authority on the matter.
     
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  26. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I was flying at OJC once when a balloon was setting up on that empty lot on the N/W side, between the FBO and the road, right at that entrance on the W side. I was doing some pattern work and tower had to get me to extend my pattern for a bit while the balloon drifted across the rwy. That was pretty cool to watch a balloon below me.
     
  27. Dave Theisen

    Dave Theisen En-Route PoA Supporter

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    you’re on the wrong webboard. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
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  28. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Well.... one very good reason at least.....

    [​IMG]
     
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  29. Sinistar

    Sinistar En-Route

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    You'll get to master another hot start procedure.

    Can you transport it in the MU2?
     
  30. Ryanb

    Ryanb Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    You’re an outlier... ;)
     
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  31. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    "Lead by example."

    I can see it now... "The Ted method for hot starting a balloon."

    It can't get transported in the MU-2, primarily because of the size of the basket. This is unfortunate because the one we're strongly considering is on my way home from a rescue trip this weekend, so it would be easy to drop in, pick it up, head home. However the basket is not collapsible and won't fit through the door. The rest of it I could bring back, though, including the propane tanks, and then worry about shipping the basket independently. Realistically that wouldn't save a whole lot.
     
  32. FormerHangie

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    Not a phrase I ever expected to hear.

    Somehow I think that's best for all concerned.

    I bumped into a guy who was a hot air balloon pilot. Apparently balloons are powered by large containers of propane. He had one stored in his garage, and was away on vacation for a week. When he came back said garage and his house were pretty much gone. It seems that the gas valve was just a tiny bit open, and the garage slowly started filling up with propane from the bottom up. It's not uncommon for smaller houses here to have their water heaters in their garages. At some point the propane reached the pilot light, followed by rapid combustion. If it were me I'd find a well ventilated area to store said tanks.
     
  33. DaleB

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  34. asicer

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    ... intentionally.
     
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  35. IK04

    IK04 Pattern Altitude

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    I have a cat you can take with you...
     
  36. geezer

    geezer Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Out in the wide open spaces, ballooning makes some sense, as there are relatively few valuable things to damage. Here in the East, all kinds of things go wrong. A balloon that was up on a day that was too windy, had trouble finding a safe place to land, and ran out of gas. Before the last burst of heat, the pilot realized that he was going into a woods, but there seemed to be an open field on the other side, and burned the last gas. He barely made it over into the 69,000 volt switch yard of a large regional substation.

    The high voltage tripped as he went across the conductors, the metal frame of the basket saving him and his passengers. The power company sent an emergency crew, shut down the rest of the substation, and raised a dual bucket bucket truck rescuing them one at a time. The basket and burners were then cut loose, the balloon winched out of the structure, and the blackout ended.

    Our son had bought us a ride in that balloon ride service, but I was too picky about the weather conditions I would go up in, and we had canceled. They refunded the ride, and later when the substation event occurred, I was glad that I had not gone with them. Maryland is not a good region for ballooning. That was years ago, right after I retired.
     
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  37. ja_user

    ja_user Pattern Altitude

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    One of the locals frequently launches from OJC or back there. When I went we tried to land back by the truck, but ended up across the road about 200yds west of the spot we had picked. Not bad for launching miles away an hour earlier.
     
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  38. G-Man

    G-Man Line Up and Wait

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    _I_ was waiting...
     
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  39. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    You also had secret intel. ;)
     
  40. G-Man

    G-Man Line Up and Wait

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    I ain't what you know, it's who you know!
     
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