Hot air balloons: up, up, and away!

In our high-flying photo quiz, see how much you know about a type of transportation that dates back to 1783.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

It's probably not going to take you long to figure out what colorful object the photographs below represent: It's a hot-air balloon. Have you ever ridden in one? It looks as though it would be fun.

Look at the photos and read the clues below. Can you match the descriptions with the various parts of the hot-air balloon in the pictures? The answers are at the bottom of the page.


1. The large, "baglike" part of a hot air balloon that fills with air is called an envelope. Envelopes usually are spherical, which make them more aerodynamic (able to move efficiently through the air). Many envelopes are brightly colored.

2. Gores are long pieces of durable nylon or polyester mesh that form the envelope when stitched together.

3. Kevlar cables form the framework or skeleton of the balloon. They support the envelope and attach to the balloon's basket with a carabiner (an oval metal ring with a snap link).

4. Prior to a balloon flight, the envelope is spread out on the ground. With the help of the pilot and crew, cool air is blown into it with an inflator fan. Once the cool air fills the envelope about halfway, warmer air is blown into it, making the balloon stand up straight. The entire process of unpacking, inflating, and launching a balloon takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Can you spot the inflator fan?

5. A propane burner generates the flames that heat the air inside the envelope, causing a balloon to climb.

6. If the electronic starter doesn't immediately ignite the propane gas in the burner, the pilot may use a striker. It's a hand-held device that creates a small spark, which lights the flame.

7. A whisper burner makes less noise than the main propane burner and is often used when flying over noise-sensitive areas such as schools and homes. It's turned on by opening a valve.

8. The cockpit or passenger basket for a hot-air balloon is often made out of wicker or rattan, lightweight and flexible materials that help cushion landings. It holds not just the passengers, but also the pilot, propane tanks, and navigation equipment.

9. An altimeter displays the height at which a balloon is traveling above the ground.

10. A balloon pilot uses a relief map when planning flights. Raised areas on the map show the pilot the heights of natural features, such as hills or mountains, over which they may fly.


1. D

2. E

3. B

4. G

5. J

6. A

7. H

8. C

9. F

10. I

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