AskDefine | Define ballooning

Dictionary Definition

ballooning n : flying in a balloon

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. present participle of balloon


  1. the sport or hobby of flying in a balloon
    When he retired, he took up ballooning.


  1. growing rapidly as a balloon
    The ballooning economy was out of control.
  2. rising high in the air
    The cricketer hit a ballooning shot for six runs.

Extensive Definition

"Ballooning" redirects here. For the behavior of spiders and other arthropods, see Ballooning (spider).
A balloon is a type of aircraft that remains aloft due to its buoyancy. A balloon travels by moving with the wind. It is distinct from an airship, which is a buoyant aircraft that can be propelled through the air in a controlled manner.

Types of balloon aircraft

There are three main types of balloon aircraft:
  • Hot air balloons obtain their buoyancy by heating the air inside the balloon. They are the most common type of balloon aircraft.
  • Gas balloons are inflated with a gas of lower molecular weight than the ambient atmosphere. Most gas balloons operate with the internal pressure of the gas being the same as the pressure of the surrounding atmosphere. There is a type of gas balloon, called a superpressure balloon, that can operate with the lifting gas at pressure that exceeds the pressure of the surrounding air, with the objective of limiting or eliminating the loss of gas from day-time heating. Gas balloons are filled with gases such as:
    • hydrogen - not widely used for aircraft since the Hindenburg disaster because of high flammability (except for some sport balloons as well as nearly all unmanned scientific and weather balloons).
    • helium - the gas used today for all airships and most manned balloons.
    • ammonia - used infrequently due to its caustic qualities and limited lift.
    • coal gas - used in the early days of ballooning; it is highly flammable.
  • Rozière balloons use both heated and unheated lifting gases. The most common modern use of this type of balloon is for long-distance record flights such as the recent circumnavigations.


The hot air balloon Kongming lantern was developed for military communications around the second or third century AD in China. It is thought that some ancient civilizations may have developed manned hot air balloon flight. For example, the Nazca lines (which are best seen from the air) allegedly presuppose some form of manned flight, such as a balloon.
In 1710 in Lisbon, Bartolomeu de Gusmão made a balloon filled with heated air rise inside a room. He also made a balloon named Passarola (Portuguese: Big bird) and attempted to lift himself from Saint George Castle in Lisbon, but only managed to harmlessly fall about one kilometre away. According to the Portuguese speaking community, this was the first man ever to fly in human history. However, this claim is not generally recognized by aviation historians outside the Portuguese speaking community, in particular the FAI.
Following Henry Cavendish's 1766 work on hydrogen, Joseph Black proposed that a balloon filled with hydrogen would be able to rise in the air.
The first recorded manned flight was made in a hot air balloon built by the Montgolfier brothers on November 21 1783. The flight started in Paris and reached a height of 500 feet or so. The pilots, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and Francois Laurent (the Marquis of d'Arlandes), covered about 5 1/2 miles in 25 minutes.
Only a few days later, on December 1 1783, Professor Jacques Charles and Nicholas Louis Robert made the first gas balloon flight, also from Paris. The hydrogen filled balloon flew to almost 2,000 feet (600 m), stayed aloft for over 2 hours and covered a distance of 27 miles (43 km), landing in the small town of Nesle.
The next great challenge was to fly across the English Channel, a feat accomplished on January 7 1785 by Jean-Pierre Blanchard.
The first aircraft disaster occurred in May 1785 when the town of Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland was seriously damaged when the crash of a balloon resulted in a fire that burned down about 100 houses, making the town home to the world's first aviation disaster. To this day, the town shield depicts a phoenix rising from the ashes.
Blanchard went on to make the first manned flight of a balloon in America on January 9 1793. His hydrogen filled balloon took off from a prison yard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The flight reached 5,800 feet (1,770 m) and landed in Gloucester County, New Jersey. President George Washington was among the guests observing the takeoff.
Gas balloons became the most common type from the 1790s until the 1960s.
The first steerable balloon (also known as a dirigible) was flown by Henri Giffard in 1852. Powered by a steam engine, it was too slow to be effective. Like heavier than air flight, the internal combustion engine made dirigibles – especially blimps – practical, starting in the late 19th century. In 1872] [[Paul Haenlein flew the first (tethered) internal combustion motor powered balloon. The first to fly in an untethered airship powered by an internal combustion engine was Alberto Santos Dumont in 1898.
Henri Giffardalso developed a tethered balloon for passengers in 1878 in the Tuileries Garden in Paris. The first tethered balloon in modern times was made in France at Chantilly Castle in 1994 by AEROPHILE S.A. Ed Yost redesigned the hot air balloon in the late 1950s using rip-stop nylon fabrics and high-powered propane burners to create the modern hot air balloon. His first flight of such a balloon, lasting 25 minutes and covering 3 miles (5 km), occurred on October 22 1960 in Bruning, Nebraska.
Yost's improved design for hot air balloons triggered the modern sport balloon movement. Today, hot air balloons are much more common than gas balloons.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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