Glossary of Ballooning Jargon (E-M) [Virtual Factory]

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Photographs and brief explanations for ballooning terms E - M.

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The pilot is given two markers. After a certain minimum distance he drops the first, then after a further minimum distance, the second. The score is the greatest change of course between the two legs of the flight, measured in degrees.


BalloonThe envelope is the part of the balloon that inflates. It is made up of a number of vertical segments called gores, which are themselves made up of a number of smaller panels. Each panel edge is folded back on itself, interleaved with the next folded edge, and then all four thicknesses of fabric are sewn through twice by machine using a lockstitch known as a French Fell Seam. The gores are attached to heavy duty webbing tapes that pass around the balloon. The envelope has large holes top and bottom. The bottom one is fairly obvious in its function - the pilot has to be able to fill the balloon with hot air. The top one is a valve to enable the pilot to vent air quickly when the pilot wants to descend or land. Envelopes are named by their capacity. For example a '77' holds 77,000 cubic feet of air. This is about the size of balloon that will carry three people.

Envelope Scoop

This is the small conical section of cloth that hangs from below the main envelope and runs halfway around the envelope. Its purpose is to direct the hot air into the main envelope and protect the jet from the prevailing breeze. It also helps to pressurise the balloon particularly when tethering.



The fabric that is used to make hot-air balloons is known as ripstop nylon and weighs 70g/m2. It is specially woven with crisscross reinforcement threads to make it extra strong. The fabric is lightweight and colourful and can withstand temperatures in excess of 120 degrees C - well above the boiling point of water. Nomex - fabric that feels like cotton and is very resistant to heat is used round the mouth of the balloon where the flame from the burner may melt the nylon, particularly on a windy day. Nomex is a similar fabric to that used in the suits for racing car drivers to protect them.


The balloons and crews go out from the contest field by a certain minimum distance, usually 5km and choose their own take-off point to fly back from. They take-off in a field (after asking the landowner's permission) and fly back to drop their marker on the goal in the contest field. This task has its drawbacks but is a great spectator sport.


The advance report of the likely weather conditions at a given time in the near future e.g. 12 hour/24hour based on the trend of the weather and our knowledge of variables affecting the weather.

Fuel Cylinders

40 - 80 litre aluminium, stainless steel or titanium containers with valves to release pressurised propane in a controlled manner through the burner controls. All cylinders have a contents guage and pressure relief which protects against excessive internal pressure.

Fuel Tanks

The fuel tanks or cylinders are tanks of liquid propane gas. They normally stand in the corner of the basket leaving room for the pilot and passengers. Padded covers surround the cylinder - just in case of a bumpy landing - while rubber encased armoured pipes carry the fuel up to the burner which is supported above the basket on flexible nylon rods. Fuel tanks are now available from Cameron's made out of titanium which offers a significant weight saving.


Gloves, boots and willingness

Gloves, walking boots and the willingness to get up early are the most important pieces of equipment for new people into ballooning : Sturdy leather gloves for handling ropes, fabric and basket are best; Flat lace up boots provide good ankle support and are perfect for walking in dewy fields first thing in the morning; Be prepared to get up early, we are often on the field preparing for flight just after dawn and in the Summer that can be as early as 04:30am!


This is an identifiable point from which measurements can be made. If possible the target should be clearly visible from the air.

Gradient Wind

Measured in knots and degrees in the direction it is coming from considered to be over 2000ft above ground level. (It also takes into account the geostrophic force which is the force of pressure gradient, coriolis and centripetal forces.)

Grid North

Is the marked North lines (called Eastings - because each north-south line moves further east as you move across the map) used on maps to split it into easy chunks.

Grid references

The letters and numbers to pin-point a position on the map clearly (usually a six figure number). Always use the along the runway and take off philosophy to ensure you get the numbers the correct way round.....


Hesitation Waltz

A curious name for a task which is really a judge declared goal with a choice of several goals. The plot can choose one after take-off.


A special fabric exclusive to Cameron Balloons used in the top of the balloon. Although heavier (90g/m2) than nylon it is almost 10 times as strong (it is also available in 23 different colours/the same number as nylon).


Inflation Fan

Inflation fanShooting jets of flame sideways into an empty envelope doesn't tend to do it any good, and so the initial inflation of the envelope is done with an inflation fan. They may have either three bladed or four bladed fans to improve their efficiency, and they come in a range of power depending on the size of envelope that needs to be filled.


Commonly used in ballooning for altitude measurement (altimeter), to display climb and descent rate (variometer) and to indicate envelope internal temperature (thermistor).


Lines of equal pressure on a weather chart.


Lines of equal temperature on a weather chart.


Judge declared goal competition

The competitors are given a goal somewhere downwind, and they must try to drop their markers on it. It is usually marked with a large fabric cross pinned to the ground with tent pegs and is watched by a group of official observers.



The metal connection points (often used in climbing although ballooning tends to use the stronger and heavier versions) between the basket wires and the envelope wires.

Katabatic Wind

Cool wind flowing down the mountainside before the sun has heated up the surface.


Measurement of nautical miles per hour (but nobody says that or knots per hour!).



Refers to fuel drawn from the tank in a liquid form for some types of burner valves which is then vapourised in the burner coil before igniting on the pilot light.

Load Calculation

Before each flight the all up weight must be calculated, and a check made to ensure that this does not exceed the available lift, otherwise the envelope can easily be overheated.


Magnetic North

A compass shows magnetic North which points slightly to one side of the northerly direction, measured in degrees magnetic.


These are thrown at the targets and must be a streamer of specific weight balloon nylon. It has to be 170cm long, 10cm wide and be weighted with 70g of sand. They are usually brightly coloured to assist with location once thrown from the balloon.

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