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What Are The Panels On A Hot Air Balloon?

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How Do The Panels Work On A Hot Air Balloon? What Do They Do?

Looking at hot air balloons in the sky can be a spectacle, but have you wondered how these hot air balloons work with all their parts to keep them in the sky?

The panels are the parts of a hot air balloon that make up the envelope of the balloon (or the balloon material itself), these are then woven together for reinforcement, with two panels making a gore in the envelope.

In our guide below, we will take through the exact anatomy of a hot air balloon including its panels, why its material does not catch fire and how it works in conjunction with everything else.

What Are The Panels For In a Hot Air Balloon?

As we mentioned above, the panels on a hot air balloon are woven into a hot air balloon envelope, they are typically made from nylon but can be mixed with other materials and have special coatings for strength.

When panels are sewn together, they become gores, this creates a shape to hold hot air in the balloon, at the top, you will find that the panels or gores expand at the top of the balloon known as the crown, at the skirt of the hot air balloon it tapers.

There are also vents and lines to allow deflation of the balloon so that the pilot can control the balloon. For example, an S-55A envelope is made out of 24 gores in total.

The Anatomy Of A Hot Air Balloon Explained

Now we know the main role of panels in a hot air balloon we can get on to discussing the other parts of a hot air balloon and how they all work together to make up a hot air balloon.


The envelope is also known as the balloon material itself, it’s made out of gores which are stitched together we mentioned above and is held onto the basket via cables and ties, it can also be removed. A deflation port is included in the top parts of the envelope to let hot air out, the line from the top extends to the pilot for control.

Temperature indicators will likely be inside of the envelope, these are called tell tales, they turn black once the temperature gets too hot indicating an issue with the balloon.

The Burner

The burner of a hot air balloon will be attached to the basket and can only be controlled by the pilot to manoeuvre the balloon, this burner will come in the form of a propane gas tank and can often have multiple burners too.


This is where passengers will be as well as the pilot and come in different sizes and shapes depending on how many passengers they are carrying. The bigger the basket, the bigger the envelope needs to be to support it.

Why Do Panels Not Catch Fire On a Hot Air Balloon?

Panels and gores can differ in material according to the balloon but are mostly made from nylon with special coatings to avoid them from catching fire and staying strong.

Typically, the top half of a hot air balloon is made from stronger nylon, this is coated with a silicone coating to protect from high heat fumes and fungi.

The bottom half of the nylon material will be made with Nomex to protect it from catching fire, this material is used by firefighters. Some panels will often have a UV coating too to protect them from the sun.

How Does a Hot Air Balloon Work?

After understanding all the different parts of a hot air balloon, you might be interested to see how all these parts work together with the power of physics for a balloon to float.

One of the most important parts of a hot air balloon is the burner, the burner of a hot air balloon heats the air inside making the air less dense than the air on the outside which is heavier, this contrast allows the balloon to rise through a term called buoyancy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Panels & Hot Air Balloons

 What are hot air balloon panels made from? 

Most hot air balloons are made from nylon with various coatings to make them stronger, protect them from fire and UV rays from the sun. The panels are then sewn together to make gores.

What were hot air balloons made from historically? 

Ways back in 1783, hot air balloons were made from silk which worked very well to expand and hold their shape in the air, silk is very expensive, however, so now most balloons are made from more affordable nylon.

How many panels does it take to make a hot air balloon envelope? 

This entirely depends on the size of the hot air balloon, two panels make up a gore in a hot balloon envelope, on an S-55A envelope 24 of these gores are needed, so 48 panels in total.

How big can hot air balloons be?

The biggest hot air balloon was reported to have a size of 74,000 cubic meters, most large hot air balloons are over 90-meters wide.

Final Words

To conclude, the panels on hot air balloons are used to make the envelope of the balloon which is where the hot air sits inside, these are then sewn together to make gores, panels are often made up of nylon with special protective coatings.

All parts of a hot air balloon work together; the burner, envelope, and basket for the balloon to rise from the hot air.

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