CHOOSING A BALLOON
Many companies manufacture balloons that are
type-certificated by the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA). A type-certificated balloon
has passed many tests, has been approved by the
FAA, and conforms to the manufacturer’s Type
Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS). Balloon size is
rated by envelope volume. Following are the most
popular sizes in use today.
Advantages of Balloon Sizes
Different balloon sizes offer different advantages.
The size of the balloon purchased should be
determined according to planned use(s). Most
pilots think smaller balloons are easier to handle,
fly, and pack-up. Bigger balloons use less fuel,
operate cooler, and last longer. If you live in higher
elevations or hotter climates, or if you plan to carry
passengers, a larger balloon is preferred. If you
plan to compete in balloon competitions or fly only
for sport, a smaller balloon is more practical.
Selecting a New or Used Balloon
Should you buy a new or used balloon? The cost
is the most obvious difference between new and
used balloons. Some new pilots buy a used balloon
to gain proficiency, and then purchase a new
balloon when they have a better idea of what they
want or need.
The level of after-sales service available—locally
and from the manufacturer—is an important
criterion in deciding which brand of balloon you
should purchase. Talk to local pilots and ask
questions. How does the local balloon repair
station feel about different brands? Do they stock
parts for only one brand? Does the manufacturer
ship parts and fabric for balloons already in the
field, or do they reserve these parts and fabric for
new production? Will your balloon be grounded
for lack of materials while new balloons are being
There are other criteria that could be considered,
such as altitude at which the balloon will be flying,
climate, and interchangeability of components, to
give some examples. Before making your final
decision, talk to people with different kinds of
balloons and who do different kinds of flying.
Crewing for different balloons is an excellent way
to learn about the various kinds of balloons.
Crewing on different balloons may help you decide
on your first balloon purchase.