What is Model Ballooning?

Ballooning serves to an easy principle: Hot air is lighter than cold air and therefore rises. If we manage to capture it, we can lift us up into the sky. The Brothers Montgolfier, who went down in history as the first aviators in 1783, first experimented with model balloons before they let a sheep, a cock and a duck on board of their balloons. Later, the first men followed.

A model balloonist's equipment: envelope, basket, remote control unit and ventilator
Today's hot air balloons are, by use of modern technology, much safer and more comfortable than the first samples of their kind. The model balloons are in no way inferior to them: Like their 'big brothers', they heat up the air by a propane gas burner and so get the necessary lift. The envelope is made of the same material. The basket consists of willow or rattan and contains the gas bottles and the control box. Inside that control box the whole technique is located which makes the balloon remote controllable.

However, controllable in this case just means up and down: The pilot may influence the rise and decline of his balloon and the altitude in which it flies, but its destination is solely determined by the wind. The art of ballooning - and model ballooning - now constists in using the several wind directions in different heights to push the balloon where we want it to be. To be able to fly a balloon back to its launch site is yet quite rare.

So the pilot has to walk after his balloon, at least he wants to have it back! Depending on the wind's speed this happens from snail's pace to pig's race all across fields, swampy meadows, streams and maize fields. That's why we often talk about model ballooning as a sport... ;-)

This also means that you can't launch a model balloon everytime and everywhere. Wind should be weak or calm, and the terrain should allow to follow the balloon on foot. That's why most of the model balloon meetings take place in autumn or winter. The thermionics are not as strong as in summer and spring during the day, and most farmers don't mind us walking over thier fields now.
Modell balloons over Chateau d'Oex (Switzerland)

The flight altitude of a model balloon theoretically isn't limited. The range of the remote control unit is about one kilometer (0,6 miles), however, law limits flight altitude to 50 meters (160 feet) above ground level. You wouldn't get much out of it if your balloon was hanging somewhere up there with you hardly seeing it. It is much more interesting to hover closely over fields, streams and trees to train your personal skills in controlling your balloon.

The 'average' model balloon is six to eight meters tall (20 to 26 feet) and has a volume of 60 to 100 cubic meters (2120 to 3530 cuft.). Flight duration lasts from half an hour up to one and half an hour. In Europe, there are about 180 model balloons, and about 250 worldwide. The low spreading of that hobby has one reason in particular: It is not quite cheap.

One almost cannot distinguish if they are 'real' or model
We built all our model balloons by ourselves for the greater part, from the bottom of the basket right to the top. In that way, the penguin cost us about 2300 Euro. However, you will have to spend 3000 to 4000 Euro if you desire to buy a complete model balloon from one of the commercial model balloon manufacturers. If you're lucky, you can find a sponsor who pays parts or the entire equipment. Model balloons are much more effective in advertising than big balloons, because they are not so widely known, and therefore are an attraction wherever they appear.

If you need more information concerning model ballooning, don't hesitate to us. The following hints might also be helpful for you, although most of them relate to the European and especially German language area. Please have a look at our 'Links' section for model balloon pages in your home country.

Here you can order everything, from the smallest spare part up to an entire model balloon:

Zugspitzstr. 27
D-82515 Wolfratshausen
BallonSport Bölling
Im Belli 41
D-78086 Brigachtal

Internet: http://www.heinzelballoons.de

Internet: http://www.modellballone.com

The do-it-yourself guide to model ballooning

After the first edition of the (German only, unfortunately) book had been completely sold out and the publishing company refused to make a second edition, all the knowledge, hints and tricks inside the book seemed to be lost for all future generations of model balloonists.

We - and the author of the first edition, Klaus-Dieter Jahnke - were not willing to accept that. In months and months of work, in cooperation between Klaus-Dieter Jahnke and Matthias Schlegel, a second edition of the book was made, which you can download now from our Homepage - completely for free!

go to the download page
The Model Balloon Book

The Model Balloon eBook
The model ballooning eBook

Jim Morton from www.dreambuiltdesigns.com has written an eBook on how to build and fly a model hot air balloon.
Features are (among others) a gore pattern layout which simplifies drawing the full-sized gore pattern, an easy-to-make jig for making the support cables, step-by-step instructions from beginning to end, many photos and drawings and a complete parts & source list.

Go to the model ballooning eBook site for further information, pictures, screenshots and how to purchase.

If you know books about model ballooning in other languages, please let me know!