Hot Air Balloon Launch Makes For a Summertime Diversion (GeekDad Weekly Rewind)

Geek Culture

If the kids are starting to develop the dreaded Midsummer Malaise, and you’re looking for an interesting diversion, check to see where and when your local hot air balloonists launch their flights. The entire process of laying out, inflating, and launching the balloon never ceases to fascinate the kids (and the adults), which makes for some good summer outdoor education and entertainment. And if you’re lucky, the balloon launch might just occur next to an ice cream shop for a cool post-launch snack.

So, just how does one launch a hot air balloon? Well, on a recent outing, I filmed the entire process:

The video is about 10 minutes long, which might be a bit much for those of you with young kids gnawing at your ankles. If you fall into that category, then here’s the abridged version in pictures:

Start by blowing air in with a couple of gas-powered fans

The bag will start to fill

Once the bag is loosely filled, start the burners

The air inside heats and expands

The bag is full and hot, so it's time for the passengers to climb aboard

Cast off the mooring line and away we go

Up, Up and Away….

Once the crew get started, the entire process of filling and launching proceeds surprisingly quickly. The crew often must wait for the wind to die down in the evening before they can begin though, so don’t be surprised if you end up hanging around for quite a while before they get busy. The local commercial balloon company has a balloon hot-line that provides information on the expected launches for the day, and I’d suggest you check to see if something similar is available near you.

If you have science-minded kids, the launch is a great opportunity to talk about air density, wind currents, thermodynamics, and gravitational potential energy. For fun, ask them if it’s the balloon that’s rising or the colder, denser air around it that’s sinking. And then ask them what happens to a helium balloon in a car that suddenly accelerates or decelerates. Just be sure you know the answer yourself, or be prepared to distract with that ice cream I mentioned earlier….

[This article, by Roy Wood, was originally published on Wednesday. Please leave any comments you may have on the original.]

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