Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 31 and the balloon manufacturers' equipment lists specify certain instruments in the balloon. [Refer to appendix C] However, most pilots find they use instruments less and less as they gain experience and familiarity with the balloon.

For instance, while the VSI and the altimeter can be used to execute a smooth descent and transition to level flight, the experienced pilot will refer only occasionally to the instruments during maneuvers. This is especially so in maneuvers involving descents where they rely more on sight pictures and visual references.

Some beginning pilots become fixated on the instruments and forget to scan outside for obstacles. If a pilot spends too much time looking at the flight instruments, the instructor may cover the instrument pack with a spare glove or a hand to try to break the formation of a bad habit. Instruments are required and useful, but should not distract you from searching for obstacles. Always practice see and avoid.


The temperature of the air inside the envelope controls balloon altitude. A balloon that is neither ascending nor descending is in equilibrium. To make the balloon ascend, increase the temperature of the air inside the envelope. If the temperature is increased just a little, the balloon seeks an altitude only a little higher and/or climb at a very slow rate. If the temperature is increased a lot, the balloon seeks a much higher altitude and/or climbs faster. If the balloon is allowed to cool, or hot air is vented, the balloon descends.


Using evenly-spaced, identical standard burns to fly level, a pilot needs to only make two burns in a row to have added excess heat to make the balloon climb. For instance, if you can fly level with a standard burn every 60 seconds, and then make two burns instead of one, the balloon will have an extra burn and will climb. How fast the balloon will climb depends on how much extra heat you add. Under average conditions, if you make the standard burn to hold the balloon at level flight and immediately (not waiting the 60 seconds) you make a second burn, the average balloon will start a slow climb. Three burns in a row will result in a faster climb.

To avoid subjecting the burners and the envelope to the shock of a too-long burn, make two burns with a pause between burns. If a rapid ascent is desired, make three or maybe even four burns in a row, but always with a 5-second pause between burns to allow the heater to cool. The exception to this procedure is when using a double burner; in this case, alternate burners and wait only about 1 second between burns.

Once the desired climb rate is established, go back to the level flight routine to hold the balloon at that rate. The higher the altitude, or the faster the rate-ofclimb, the shorter the interval between burns. In an average size balloon at 5,000 feet, the pilot may be required to make a standard burn every 15 to 20 seconds to keep the balloon climbing at 500 FPM. At sea level, the same rate may require burning only every 30 to 40 seconds. Burn rates cannot be predicted in advance, but practice will get you in the ballpark to begin with, and experimentation will find the correct burn rate for a particular day's ambient temperature, altitude, and balloon weight.

Another skill to develop in ascents is knowing when to quit burning so the balloon will slow and stop at the chosen altitude. The transition from a climbing mode to level flight involves estimating the momentum and coasting up to the desired or assigned altitude.

An ascent of 200 to 300 FPM is slow enough to detect wind changes at different altitudes, which is helpful in maneuvering. Above 500 FPM, it is possible to fly right through small, narrow wind bands, or a wind that its direction change is very small, without noticing. It is a good idea to launch and climb at a slow speed (100 to 200 FPM) to make an early decision which direction to fly.

If you practice and remember the routine, your flying skills will get better and better; it will be easier and easier to fly, and you will have more fun.

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