F L Y I N G
Following service in the US Army, I was able to train under the GI BIll and added a commercial pilots license with ratings for both single and multi engine fixed wing aircraft, and flight in instrument flight conditions (ASMEL/I in pilot speak). Following the Vietnam war there was a glut of ex-military pilots with much more experience in high performance aircraft, so although I obtained a commercial license, I chose to fly mostly for recreation.
It is a Piper Cherokee 140, manufactured in 1964. This aircraft was originally built as a two seat aircraft but had been upgraded to add two additional seats. The photo above was actually taken when we went to inspect the aircraft prior to purchase. Thats me, opening the cowling for a better look inside. Note the aircraft is equipped with wheel fairings. Many older aircraft have had them removed through the years because of damage or to allow easier access to the brakes and tires for maintenance.
To the casual observer it would be difficult to tell, but the panel had been significantly upgraded through the years. Fuses have been replaced with circuit breakers, addition of a moving map display, and upgraded solid state digital radios, including GPS. The radio stack was one of the things that attracted us to this particular aircraft.
A Different Kind of Flying
The first thing you learn when you start ballooning is that it is a team effort.
Launching a Hot Air Balloon
After you attach the burner supports to the basket you can attach the burner and pull the assembled bottom end onto it’s side, with the burner pointing down wind. Place the envelope storage bag on the ground a few feet away and open it. Then you can attach the suspension cables for the envelope to the basket.
Be sure to use a quick release of some type to secure the basket to some sturdy object to prevent the basket from being drug across the ground during inflation.
One person should be assigned to keep a steady pull on the crown line during inflation to help stabilize the envelope. Once the envelope fabric is lying on the ground, carefully spread it to the sides, taking care not to step on the fabric.
Some times the weight of the air filling the envelope will hold the folds of fabric in contact with the ground, preventing the envelope from inflating smoothly. It may be necessary to walk along both sides of the envelope as it is being inflated and gently pull the fabric from beneath the inflating envelope.
Be sure the envelope is fully inflated before proceeding.
Open the fuel valve on one tank and light the burner pilots. Direct the burner towards the center of the throat of the envelope and squeeze the blast valve. Take care to keep the flame centered in the opening.
When the pilot fires the burner the inflation fan should be shut off to prevent blowing the flame out of position. If the envelope has not been fully cold inflated it is possible for the fabric to be pulled into the burner flame by the low pressure area caused be the intense flame.
The burner on my balloon had an output of 27,000,000 BTU’s of heat. The furnace in an average residence has an output of around 100,000 BTU’s.
As the envelope begins to move the person on the crown line should continue to pull, moving towards the basket as the envelope moves to vertical. The function of the crown line to to act as a “shock absorber” to prevent the envelope from picking up too much momentum, going beyond verticle, and oscillating back and forth.
As the passengers board, the pilot will continue to fire the burner in short blasts, to maintain the balloon at equilibrium.
( AKA “Baby Balloon” )
Starship is an ultra-light balloon that I designed and constructed. The initial design work was done using CAD software. I would like to thank Charlie Gardner for taking the time to show me how to calculate panel dimensions using CAD, as well as answering a lot of questions that probably sounded dumb to him.
The envelope is constructed of coated rip-stop nylon and contains approximately 28,000 cubic feet of air when inflated. Four hundred linear yards of 60 inch wide material were used in the construction of the envelope. In order to ensure a smooth shape, with minimum waste, all of the fabric had to be split to 30 inch width. Thats a LOT of cutting with a hot knife. The panels were cut to size using a hot wire saw (any Varieze builders out there?).
A custom harness is used support the pilot during flight. The harness consists of a padded sling that supports the pilots weight as well as sholder, waist, and crotch straps to provide restraint and security. Quick adjust fittings are provided on all straps to make it easy to accomodate different size pilots. The harness was assenbled using webbing and fittings used in aircraft seatbelt and shoulder harness construction.