So we’ve got a great summer to look forward to in many parts of the world. But what happens if it rains?
Usually, pilots won’t launch a hot air balloon when there is precipitation in the area. However, some will decide to fly, while others will not.
It entirely depends on the situation, so let’s take a look at some of the common concerns of flying in the rain.
Hot air balloons are popular during the summer in many places in the world. In fact, in the U.S. and Canada, the season for hot air ballooning is generally from April to October, with the most popular months being May through August.
The earliest balloon flights were made by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783. The brothers filled a silk balloon with heated air for the first manned balloon flight on November 21, 1783.
However, modern hot air balloons are said to have been invented by Ed Yost who flew the first practical hot air balloon in the United States in 1978.
Why can’t Hot air balloons fly in the rain?
The answer is yes—but there are a couple of factors to consider. First, rain and wind are two of the biggest threats to a hot air balloon’s safe takeoff and landing.
Depending on the size of the balloon, two or three people can ride in it, along with a basket of supplies such as food, water, and a first aid kit. As the pilot, you have to monitor the weather, looking for storms or other factors that may compromise your safety.
You also have to be careful not to fly too high, where you risk running into jet streams or turbulence, or too low, where you risk the balloon’s envelope getting caught on power lines or telephone poles.
With that said, it is important to note that hot air balloons are not desired when there is inclement weather. In fact, a rainstorm can be highly problematic for a hot air balloon.
As the balloon heats up the escaping air, you need a calm, still environment to maintain a steady ascent. It’s possible that a storm could cause the wind turbulence that could push a balloon back down to the ground during takeoff.
Then there’s the issue of rain. The moisture in raindrops can be quite corrosive to the fabric of a balloon.
Rains and storms
Hot air balloons are not like airplanes they can fly in rain-Rains and storms. During rainy days or storms hot air balloons can rise above the clouds and fly above the storm! This is because hot air balloons use hot air that is lighter than colder air.
Hot air balloons are lighter than air, so they tend to rise in air currents. This includes rising in stormy air currents. What you see in movies, of hot air balloons being buffeted by a storm, is dramatic, but dramatic is not necessarily realistic.
In fact, we have never heard of a hot air balloon that was lost due to storms. When a storm rolls through, hot air balloons seek out the calmer air above, where they remain until the storm passes.
Hot air balloons are fantastic, but many people wonder if they can fly in the rain. The short answer is that it is not recommended. A lot of people don’t realize that the hot air balloon must stay in the air because of the amount of propane gas it uses to fly.
It burns, and floats, so that is why it is called hot air balloon. It takes a tremendous amount of heat to keep the air hot enough, so that the balloon does not fall to the ground.
The cooling effect of rain
While hot air balloons are not as common as they used to be, they are still used for either recreational or commercial purposes. Surprisingly, there have been few studies on the effects of rain on hot air balloons.
Flying a hot air balloon on a day where the winds are high is considered a major challenge for many pilots. The reason is that a balloon’s maximum altitude is limited by the temperature of the air, typically around 17 or 18 degrees Celsius.
The hotter the air, the higher the balloon can fly. With the balloon’s burner on, the air inside heats up. Flying in the wind, the hot air will get blown out and the balloon will descend.
This is why the balloon pilot often has to let out more and more hot air to keep the balloon at the same altitude. Adding too much hot air will cause the balloon to rise too much and the pilot will have to cool the air slightly with the burners.
A hot air balloons temperature is affected by the air temperature. When the air temperature is 30 degrees Celsius the hot air balloon will float in the air.
But, if it rains the air temperature will drop to 20 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the hot air balloon will be affected by the change in air temperature.
Weather to fly or not – That is the question
This is due to the fact that they are designed to take advantage of turbulence and convection currents. On the other hand, while ballooning is not a dangerous activity, it is an inherently dangerous sport.
The small size of a balloon makes it much more susceptible to bad weather.
As a pilot, you will know how important weather is and how to predict the weather. Weather is important with a hot air balloon because you don`t want to go out if it`s raining.
Rain will be in the hot air balloon basket and can get into the burners and possibly ruin your burner compartment.
Safety is the priority in a hot air balloon
History has shown that the most important component of any hot air balloon is its safety equipment. People have died in free-flight balloon accidents since the mid-1800s, but they did not die because the technology was not advanced enough to keep the balloon afloat.
They died because there was nothing they could do to save themselves after an emergency developed. To this day, the majority of accidents that are publicly reported are the result of human error rather than technological failure.
Of all the words that are used to describe hot air ballooning, “safe” is the one most often used. And it is for good reason: whether you are flying in a hot air balloon, or observing a hot air balloon from the ground, safe is the number one goal.
The FAA has strict rules about how hot air balloons must be constructed, and it takes those rules seriously.
I’m Annie, a twenty-something year old girl who loves hot air balloons. So much so, that I have a full time job as a Flight Instructor and it is all I love talking about. Something about being up there in the elevated altitudes helps all my stresses float away!