Thinking about a Hot Air Balloon

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

  1. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    I knew you sold hot air for a living but I didn’t realize you contained it anywhere outside of your office. ;)
     
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  2. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Someone must have had the itch real bad. There was a balloon not too far from our place yesterday.
     
  3. jrcox19

    jrcox19 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I just assumed that must have been Ted...
     

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  4. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Nah, wasn’t me... maybe one year...
     
  5. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Finally got to do my first lesson. We ended up taking off from our property. More later, but it was a lot of fun.

    balloon.jpeg A218E29E-F1B0-4D5E-895C-367FF87DA9AB.jpeg 5DA4CACA-B7E7-4953-A1AB-DD2C2F60E02C.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2020
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  6. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    Is that a powered parachute in the background of the last photo?
     
  7. kayoh190

    kayoh190 Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Amazing! Very cool man.
     
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  8. skier

    skier Line Up and Wait

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    Awesome. I’d love to hear more about the training.
     
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  9. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Yes it is. Just so happened while we were floating around he was out flying. Funny thing is that, unlike the MU-2 where there's no chance of ever hearing another aircraft, I immediately heard the distinctive sound of a powered parachute/paraglider. He saw us (it's pretty hard to miss a 77,000 cubic foot brightly colored ball, apparently) and came over to say hi. Maybe a bit closer than ideal but nothing that got me worked up.
     
  10. ja_user

    ja_user Pattern Altitude

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    There is a guy down there that flies his parachute out of k81, he drives it into his trailer and drives off. No Hangar fees for him, I've scene him on some days that its been pretty chilly up there. :)
     
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  11. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Wouldn't surprise me if that was the guy. My instructor said there are a coupled of powered parachutes/paragliders/whatever around that will tend to come around and say hi.
     
  12. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Now that I've had some time to think about this I can post a few more thoughts.

    Ballooning is really a completely different kind of flying from anything I've done before. Your controls are very minimal, and most of your directional control is picking altitude to vary your wind speed and direction. Last night the winds were very calm, and as we were getting towards the end of our flight we were trying to find the altitude that got us a whopping 7 MPH of ground speed. End result was an hour of flying to go 3 statute miles and burned about 22 gallons of propane to do it, making this the least efficient MPG vehicle I've ever driven or flown. ;)

    Because the temperature of the 77,000 cubic foot mass is what's determining whether you rise, descend, or stay level, staying ahead of things is a very different feel. I definitely am working on it. Our balloon envelope is also older and fairly porous which makes it harder because the hot air leaks out faster. It's still within limits and the A&P we bought the setup from said that we would want to buy a new/replacement envelope after we got our ratings, and I'd say that's about right.

    It's funny to think about being "behind the airplane" in something that goes 5 MPH. I didn't feel behind it but I definitely felt task saturated. We did three landings (two touch-and-gos plus the final landing of the day).

    One thing that's interesting is how different flight planning is since you're at the mercy of the winds. We originally had planned to start at KOJC and fly south, but the winds were light and variable and ended up being out of the south instead of out of the north. So we relocated to our house and got to take off from there. That was pretty cool.

    The hardest thing to get used to (for me) is the concept of "landing out" since you're pretty much always landing on someone else's property. I know veteran glider pilots like @tonycondon are used to this, but I'll need to get used to it. Obvoiusly you do make an effort to pick a good place to land (i.e. not a cow pasture).
     
  13. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    The FAA Balloon Flying Handbook doesn't mention anything about carrying gifts or other compensation for the landowners?
     
  14. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Although the balloon flying handbook does indicate that refreshments should be provided for passengers, it makes no mention of gifts or other compensation for landowners. A number of balloonists do have cards printed up with pictures of the balloon and contact info (or pins) that they can hand out to landowners and interested parties. We don't have any of those yet.

    Around here provided you pick the right direction, most of the land is farmland. The good part about that is that this time of year, that means it's big and open. Of course come another month or so it will start getting farmed and not be an empty field. But there are also a number of acreages (like ours) that can be landing sites, however our acreage specifically is better for takeoff than landing.
     
  15. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You are welcome to land on my property at any time....


    If you can find a flat spot...
     
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  16. KSCessnaDriver

    KSCessnaDriver Pattern Altitude

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    Not having any balloon time but the other LTA time, I'll throw this in. You'll quickly learn how different the winds can be, in terms of velocity or direction, in a vertical direction of a few hundred feet. That balloon looks great, someday I'll do my balloon add on, but probably not for a while.
     
  17. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Yes, we definitely noticed that the other day. Few hundred feet made the difference between 1 kt GS and 7 kts GS.

    It's a completely different world from all the flying I've done previously, and I do really like it.
     
  18. evapilotaz

    evapilotaz En-Route

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    What is the cost per flight hour in propane usage?
     
  19. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

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    Wouldn't that fluctuate a good bit with the temperature differential of the atmosphere and the envelope?
     
  20. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Cost per flight hour of a balloon is an interesting thing, and it's a lot higher than most people would tend to think.

    Looking at propane, I burned about 22 gallons for an hour of flying. Tractor Supply says $2.69/gallon, so let's say $55-60/hour of propane (assuming some variation).

    But propane is really the cheapest cost. Most balloons don't fly much per year. Annuals on balloons are generally $500-$1k. So if you have a balloon you fly 10 hours a year (which isn't an uncommon number) you're likely spending more per hour on the annual cost (parts and labor) than on the fuel.

    Then, and this is the big one, you look at the life of the envelope and how you eat into that. Unlike the fixed wing airplanes we're used here, 500 hours is a lot on a balloon envelope. It's not uncommon to see ones get retired at 250 hours or even less for low use ones. I haven't researched full price ranges for new balloon envelopes, but I seem to remember $20k as a ballpark isn't uncommon. So you can find yourself pushing $100/hour just in the envelope's life reduction.

    So, there you have it - $200/hour to go nowhere. :)

    Like any fuel consumption in flying you will have some level of variation depending on what you're doing and conditions (weight, etc.). However also like most things in flying you have a fairly standard range of fuel consumption.
     
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  21. evapilotaz

    evapilotaz En-Route

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    Thank you for the fuel cost comments. Even balloning sounds expensive. I guess nothing in aviation is cheap. Your going no where but the views are fabulous :)
     
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  22. Dana

    Dana Pattern Altitude

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    Sounds like the powered paragliders I was flying, they last about 300 hours but only cost around $3K. Either way, pretty depressing to have 100% depreciation in that time. For paragliders, UV is the big thing, careful pilots will pack the wing away out of the sun if they're not going to fly it for an hour or so.
     
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  23. FormerHangie

    FormerHangie En-Route

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    Hang gliding and paragliding are probably the cheapest. A new midrange hang glider is about $5000 - $5500, a normal harness is $1000, parachute is $700, variometer is $500, and a helmet is $200. All of that stuff is extremely durable, I knew guys flying 15+ year old gliders. You can buy all that stuff used for a lot less. You should get your chute repacked twice a year ($30 each) and get (or perform, if you know what you're doing) an inspection ($200) once a year. If you're doing footlaunch, then you're probably paying $50 - $200 per year in site dues, if you're doing aerotow they're $25-$30. I think my hang gliding career cost about $1500 per year, that was including training. Paragliding is similar, their wings are less expensive but don't last as long, everything else is similar.
     
  24. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Yeah, ballooning is actually more expensive on a per hour basis than a 150 or a 172 if you're being honest about the total cost, which was surprising to us and I think is surprising to most people. And of course it is strictly something you do to "bore holes in the sky" as you can't go anywhere with it. But yes, the views are fantastic, and they're also unlike views from any other aircraft since they're 360 degree and unresticted. Plus quite peaceful. While the burners are loud, they're intermittent rather than the continuous roar of the engines.
     
  25. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    It's only nowhere if you also include the cost/hour to get back to your original point of departure. :)
     
  26. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Really the goal is to go nowhere... it's easiest if you take off and land in the same spot. :)

    But it's actually easier if you have some degree of wind, since you will drift some amount and unless you're over a giant field, and wind gives you more options for where to land. Fortunately around here I have good landing options in every direction from my house, although those will decrease once the farming season starts.

    However while I had originally thought I would like tethered flying better (simply because that makes it so you definitely can't go anywhere), but I think it's the sort of thing that would only be fun if I wanted to let a group of people get 5 minutes at a time in a balloon (say for an event on my property).
     
  27. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

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    Tether it up, base jump, rinse/repeat. lol.
     
  28. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    One of my coworkers is a very experienced skydiver and wants to jump out of the balloon once I get my commercial cert done. I'm definitely on board with it, but of course we have to figure out the logistics/legalities/etc.
     
  29. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Have you thought about using the Cobra for the basket on the hot air balloon.??
     
  30. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    No. :)

    I'll stick with a wicker basket.
     
  31. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Ok, how about a Cobra shaped envelope then.??

    [​IMG]


    (I know it isn't a Cobra, but it is the closest thing I could find...)
     
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  32. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    And it looks a lot like one of the cars in our fleet!

    4383EE96-6352-4F27-A4F8-988BE1D49397.jpeg
     
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  33. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Today I went and got the propane tanks filled for the first time at Tractor Supply. They're conveniently located near my office and sell propane by the gallon priced similarly to diesel. To be honest I wasn't entirely sure how that was going to go since the tanks are still in the balloon. But, the people there all thought it was cool. Apparently I'm the first person to bring a hot air balloon in to get refilled. At 4.2 lbs/gallon and 15 gallons each, the tanks could still be lifted in and out of the balloon when full, but it wouldn't be pleasant. Easier to drag the trailer.

    Today's weather looks beautiful, so another lesson is planned.
     
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  34. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    Okay Ted, did your parents not let you have any toys as a kid? lol.
     
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  35. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Let's just say that I wouldn't relive the first 15 years of my life for any amount of money. Starting around 17 was when things started getting better, 20 was when things started getting good.
     
  36. tonycondon

    tonycondon Gastons CRO (Chief Dinner Reservation Officer)

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    have a good flight can't wait to read all about it!!
     
  37. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    Today's flight was good. Winds were out of almost the exact same direction, so we ended up launching from my house again. A few friends volunteered to crew so even though Laurie was at work we were able to make the flight happen.

    Unlike last time, there was about a 5-6 knot surface wind, with around 10 knots at altitude. This does make takeoff and landing a bit more interesting than the wind calm one (although with how I screwed up the landing last lesson this one was much better still). The focus was on level flight, with some on climbs and descents. You have to think about 30 seconds ahead of the balloon, because that's about the amount of time it takes for heat added to produce an effect. I felt (and my instructor agreed) that I was doing a lot better this time at that. Still a bit behind, but that's to be expected.

    The other thing I'm needing to develop comfort with is the low level flying. Unlike my whirlybird-flying wife, I've done very little low-level flying in my fixed wing career. In a balloon you can fly higher, but low level is a lot of the fun, and since you're not landing at airport you have trees to come over pretty closely. So, stepping out of the comfort zone with those but enjoying it. And also trying to be respectful of the livestock and not scaring cows.

    As we were flying along, a lot of people were outside and waved at us. One family actually yelled up "Please land in our yard!" which was pretty cool. My instructor has landed there before and it's a good note. In my area there are a lot of larger acreages that people live on, which seem to make the best landing spots.

    I didn't take any pictures or videos myself. This time I just focused on the flying. But my instructor got the below picture, and my friends who crewed have some more pictures to share tomorrow.

    [​IMG]
     
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  38. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Flying airplanes low and slow doesn't seem to disturb cows that much, at least the fully grown ones. They might look up as you fly over, but that's about it. Calves are a bit more excitable but just seem to run around a little. The intermittent nature of the loud noises with a balloon may change that - I'm curious what your experience will be.

    Horses, on the other hand, go freaking nuts.
     
  39. Ted

    Ted The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted

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    How low are you classifying as flying low and slow? In a balloon you often spend a lot of your time at <1,000 AGL. And they go from silent to loud instantly, unlike an airplane where you've got pretty much the same noise, it will get gradually louder as it gets closer. The burners really are loud - loud enough that it bothers my ears and I'm going to be investing in some ear plugs to keep in the balloon for flying.

    The balloon flying handbook says that over cows and animals you should try to stay 1,000 ft AGL or higher. We were about that yesterday and I did see that we spooked a few cows in one field. I'm trying to be very courteous about that (want to keep neighbors happy with you).
     
  40. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach

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    So what is the max ceiling for your envelope? What do you think your max altitude (AGL) will be, in general?