Terminology of Hot Air Balloons and Their Equipment

Aerostat Inflation
Balloon Basket Laying Out
Balloon Crew Maneuvering Vent
Box Montgolfiere
Burners Pibal
Chase Vehicle Special Shapes
Crown Splash and Dash
Deflation Tether
Distortion Thermals
Envelope Throat
Festival Winds Aloft
Free Flight


Aerostat
A lighter-than-air device. Examples include hot air balloons, gas balloons and dirigibles. An "aeronaut" is a person who pilots a lighter-than-air craft.
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Balloon Basket
Also called the "gondola." Most are made of wicker, although other materials, including fiberglass and aluminum, have been used. Wicker is preferred because it is more flexible on landing.
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Balloon Crew
A group of about four people who function both as ground crew, helping with pre-flight preparations, and chase crew, retrieving the balloon after its flight and packing it back into the chase vehicle.
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Box
Flying back and forth over the same area by using winds of opposite directions at different altitudes. A common phenomenon in valleys because of the drainage of air down mountains.
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Burners
The fuel-burning source of power of the modern hot air balloon, consisting of coil tubing and a fuel-injecting nozzle. A double burner system generates up to 30 million BTU's per hour. A pilot "burns" by turning or pulling the blast valve.
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Chase Vehicle
The truck, van or trailer carrying the balloon components, pilot and crew. It is frequently decorated with corporate, commercial or personal logos and designs.
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Crown
The top center point of the balloon envelope. Attached to the crown is the "crownline," which a crewmember holds taut when the balloon is being inflated, preventing swaying of the envelope.
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Deflation
The pilot of a hot air balloon deflates the envelope by "ripping out" the top panel, the deflation port, of the balloon with a ripcord, or deflation line.
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Distortion
The variation of the standard inflated shape of a balloon, caused during inflation by strong winds or by "wind sheers." "Spinnakering" (a sailing term) is the distortion of an envelope being inflated or tethered in a high wind.
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Envelope
The fabric bubble of modern ripstop nylon or other synthetic material. Load tapes running vertically down the envelope end in cables that attach to the basket's uprights.
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Festival
One of many names for a hot air balloon meet or rally. Other names include Balloonfest, Classic, Fiesta, Race, or Stampede. A hot air balloon Championship tends to be a more formally competitive and controlled event.
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Free Flight
Untethered, a balloon drifting with the wind.
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Inflation
The filling of an envelope with cold air from an inflator fan and hot air from burners. After the envelope is about three-quarters filled with cold air, hot inflation begins.
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Laying Out
Walking a balloon envelope out of its bag and spreading out the fabric, readying it for inflation.
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Maneuvering Vent
A slit in the side or top of the balloon envelope, opened by the venting line for the spilling of hot air from the envelope. Venting enables the balloon to descend faster than it would normally by the cooling of the air inside the envelope. Venting can also be used to rotate the balloon.
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Montgolfiere
The generic word for the hot air balloon, named for its inventors, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfiere. "Charliere" is a rarely used term for a gas balloon, named after its inventor, Professor Jacques Charles.
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Pibal
A helium-filled pilot balloon release to ascertain the directions and velocities of wind at different altitudes.
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Special Shapes
Balloons of other than standard shape, such as a flying saucer, a dinosaur, a cowboy hat, a pink elephant, a polar bear, or a sneaker. These balloons are constructed with multiple compartments. Balloons with appendages built off the standard balloon shape are a little more difficult to handle than a standard balloon. Exceptionally horizontal or vertical shapes, though, require minimal wind for inflation and landing.
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Splash and Dash
A maneuver in which a pilot tests his or her flying skill by descending to the surface of a body of water, touches the water with the basket, and ascends again. Other exercises are "tree-topping," touching the tops of trees in flight, and "kissing," touching the envelope of another balloon in flight.
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Tether
A secured line restricting the ascent of a balloon. Used by pilots to give short "rides" to the public.
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Thermals
Updrafts caused by heated air rising from the ground. By flying early in the morning or late in the afternoon, balloonists avoid these potentially dangerous conditions.
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Throat
The mouth of a balloon envelope, usually bordered by a skirt or scoop to help direct the heat of the burners into the envelope.
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Winds Aloft
The winds at different altitudes.
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