How Much Weight Can a Hot Air Balloon Lift?

Have you gained weight recently and are wondering if you’re ready for your upcoming balloon flight? Maybe you want to know if balloons can help you carry out your plan for world domination? If so, this is the article for you!

On average, a hot air balloon that is 65,000 cubic square feet can lift 1,000 lbs. The bigger a hot air balloon is and the hotter the air inside the envelope is, the more weight it can lift. Because hot air is the lifting force in a hot air balloon, more hot air and hotter air creates more lift.

If you’ve ever wondered why hot air balloons are so big, you know now! And if you want to know more cool stuff about hot air balloons, keep reading below!

Some Boiled Down Science

This section will be broken up into two parts: the basics and advanced concepts. If you already feel like you’ve got the basics covered, go ahead and skip to advanced concepts!

The average envelope that is 65,000 cubic square feet can lift 1,000 lbs. But how? Below, we’ll cover how science can help us understand how much a hot air balloon can lift.

The Basics

If you’re still on the basics, don’t worry. We’re all still really on the basics. Plus, the basics is all you really need to know! And besides, ain’t nobody got time for the math associated with the advanced concepts!

Lesson one in the basics is that hot air rises. If a hot air balloon were just an air balloon, it would never fly. It’s the hotness of the air that causes the balloon to fly.

Imagine for a moment that you heated a bunch of air, and as that air began to rise, you trapped it in a bag! Now that hot air is pushing against the top of the bag, pulling the bag upwards.

That’s exactly what causes a hot air balloon to fly! As the air inside the envelope is heated, it rises. Because it is trapped in the envelope, it pushes against the envelope, pulling the whole balloon.

Lesson two in the basics of ballooning is directly related to lesson one. The more hot air you have trapped inside the envelope and the faster the air is rising, the more lift you’ll get.

Of course, an envelope has a limited size. Once it’s full, it’s full. So if you want more air you need a bigger envelope. Likewise, there is a limit to how hot you can make the air before you burn down the whole balloon.

Lesson three is that your lift has to be greater than your weight to fly. If your lift and weight are equal, you’re staying still. If your weight is greater, you’re going to start descending.

Weight includes more than just the people in a hot air balloon. It also includes the basket, the propane tanks, and all the other equipment!

Advanced Concepts

The advanced concepts is a lot more challenging than the basics. In reality, we could spend several posts talking about all of the advanced concepts relating to hot air balloons and lift.

Thankfully, a lot of other people have already done! If you want to know more about the advanced concepts, I’ll suggest some pages to check out. Then we’ll cover the gist of the advanced concepts.

This first website is great for anyone interested in physics! It’ll go over all the different equations needed to calculate real world lift and weight! It also has great graphs! Check it out here: The Engineering Toolbox.

This second website can actually help you figure out the lift your balloon can create! You’ll need to know some information about your balloon. It’s perfect for flight prep! Check it out here: Brisbane Balloon Calculator.

This third (and final) website is for our math people! You know, they say 75% of people struggle with math. This is for the other 30%. Check it out here: Overflite.

Now we’ll briefly cover the advanced concepts. The first thing to know about the advanced concepts is that calculating weight and lift is much more complicated than just using a scale and a thermometer.

You’ll have to include elevation, pressure, and other considerations when you do your calculations. It is an exact science, it’s just hard to be very exact about it!

The second thing to know is that there’s actually more than just weight and lift when it comes to flying a hot air balloon. There’s going to be weather and humidity and more!

The third thing to know about the advanced concepts is that you don’t need to know a lot about them if you don’t want to. Isn’t that relieving!

Some Common Sense

Science aside, it’s time for some common sense. In this section, we’ll cover three lessons that everyone should know because they’re common sense! If these don’t seem obvious to you, consider becoming a politician!

The first common sense lesson is that hot air balloons carry people. How much a balloon can carry only matters because it determines how many people you can carry.

One of the reasons ballooning is so fun is because it can be super social or totally solitary. It’s all up to you! For me, I love how social it can be, but there’s nothing wrong with needing some alone time.

So if you want ballooning to be an incredibly social event, you’ll be looking for a lot of lift in your balloon. The bigger the balloon, the more lift it creates. The more lift it creates, the more people there are that can come on the flight!

If you enjoy alone time, a smaller balloon is perfect. In fact, you’ll have the perfect excuse for being alone! “Sorry Jim, this balloon can only lift one person. Maybe next time”.

The second common sense lesson is that hot air balloons don’t exist to carry ridiculously heavy objects. If you’re looking to transport some gold or a hippopotamus, consider a boat or an airplane.

The reality is that wicker and nylon can only carry so much. Sorry for those of you who were planning to take over the world. You will have to invest in jets to carry your missiles.

Besides, you can’t really steer hot air balloons… so there’s that…

Common sense lesson three is that a hot air balloon can lift you. Even if you did put on some pounds recently (join the club). And even if you play defensive end for the Bears!

Some Fun Flights

One of the things that I really love to do is look at what could be possible. In my opinion, that’s something that adults don’t do enough. We don’t dream anymore!

But hot air balloons are all about wondering what could be possible. So, in the spirit of ballooning, let’s look at what could be possible!

Let’s stick with our original calculations: a hot air balloon that is 65,000 cubic square feet that can lift 1,000 lbs. Then let’s subtract 175 lbs. for the basket. That leaves us with 825 lbs. of lift. (in our very basic calculations).

So the question is: what could a hot air balloon lift that weighs 825 lbs. or less? And why would we put that thing in a hot air balloon?

The Finalists

The first thing that meets our criteria is a very small horse. In some parts of the world, I suppose that’s called a pony. Why would we put it in a hot air balloon? Probably because horses have dreams too.

The second thing we could put in our hot air balloon is about 412 chickens. Would we put them there so they could experience real flight? Nope. We’d do it so they could finally get to the other side of the road.

Getting away from farm animals, we could put three medium-sized sumo wrestlers in the balloon. Why? High stakes three on three sumo wrestling. Duh.

The fourth thing we could put in the balloon is four members of N-SYNC. There are five, so who do you think would get left out? And why would we do this? So Justin Timberlake could finally get left out of something.

The fifth and final thing this hot air balloon could lift is 471 hardcover copies of Twilight. Why? So we would never have to see them ever again.

And that’s a wrap! Now you know.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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