This page is not intended to be comprehensive, just the vocabulary I learned while attending the 2002 Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Click on a link below to go directly to the respective definition or just scroll down the page to view all glossary entries.
Albuquerque box: The name of a weather phenomenon exploited by hot air balloon pilots. Due to the combination of geography and weather in Albuquerque, the air currents near the ground flow, generally, from North to South. While higher air currents flow in the opposite direction. This phenomenon occurs in only a few places around the world.
Flying the box: The box is used by hot air balloon pilots to fly their aircraft in such a way that they can take off and land in about the same place. The technique of "Flying the box" involves keeping the balloon in the lower air currents until ready to go back the other direction. The pilot then makes the balloon rise up into the higher air currents thus allowing the balloon to reverse direction of travel. Once the opposite end of the box is reached, the pilot descends into the lower air currents to repeat the process. When the box is working well, a pilot can keep flying in the area for as long as fuel lasts, which usually is about two hours.
Cattle car: The name balloonists have given to the commercial balloons that take paying passengers up for a ride. A regular balloon will have a basket that can carry anywhere from 1 to 4 people. On the other hand, the commercial balloons have baskets large enough to carry up to 10 people at one time. As would be expected, to lift a load this size requires a very large balloon envelope. The normal launch schedule has the commercial balloons taking off in the first wave of launches.
Cold inflation: To fill a hot air balloon envelope with unheated air using a large fan. Around a hot-air balloon field, this term is almost self-explanatory. This does two things, it allows for the use of an inexpensive source of air to fill a balloon while it is on the ground. Then, with the balloon filled with cold air, the burner can be turned on with very little risk of damaging the envelope.
Envelope: The most prominent item in a hot air balloon system. This is the structure, usually made of colorful fabric, which contains the heated air. The envelope is what is commonly referred to as the balloon.
Hot inflation: The process of heating the air in a balloon envelope with a large propane heater. The process begins when the balloon is on its side, filled with cold air. The heat from the burner causes the air to expand as it heats; thus inflating the balloon further with hot air resulting in the balloon rising to a vertical position.
Freedom: The instant that a balloon basket is free of the earth. The precise time that the lifting force of the hot air is just enough to overcome the force of gravity holding the basket to the ground.
Piball: An abbreviation of the words "Pilot balloon." The piball is a black helium filled balloon like those used at Halloween parties. The black orb is released very early in the morning just before balloons are cleared to launch. As the piball rises, its path is observed to see which way the wind blows. A black balloon is used because it is easiest to see for a longer time as it rises into a lightly colored sky.
Shapes: A name given to the hot air balloons that are shaped different than the classic balloon shape of an upside-down teardrop. Many of the shapes are made to look like a product of a company that owns or sponsors the balloon. A balloon shaped like a very large milk-cow is owned by a well known local dairy. A nationally known bank had a couple of balloons shaped like piggy banks. A telephone company flew a balloon shaped like a telephone booth.
Weight on: The name of the process for keeping the basket of an inflated hot air balloon on the ground. People hang on to the side of the basket using their body weight to keep the basket grounded. This usually happens twice for each flight. First, to keep the balloon from taking off prematurely and again when a balloon comes in for a landing to get the basket on the ground.
Zebra: The name given to Flight Directors and officials who move around the field giving instructions for launching the hot air balloons as well as clearance to launch. Most of the officials wear black and white striped shirts to make them easy to see in a crowd. Most Zebras are volunteers and most have a lot of fun with the name "Zebra." One man really got into the part. He was wearing a short sleeved shirt and shorts that were made of material that looked like zebra skin. He also had shaved his head and put zebra skin patterns on his head with makeup. One female Zebra was wearing the conventional long sleeved striped shirt of an official; however, she was wearing a hat that looked like the head of a zebra. Most Zebras looked very much as if they could officiate at a football game.
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