From the ground, hot air balloons look deceivingly small. It’s only once you get up close and personal with a hot air balloon that you notice exactly how massive these floating sacks of air are.
Average sized hot air balloons are about 50-60 feet wide at their widest point. Because of their shape, they are less wide at the top and bottom of the envelope. Larger hot air balloons can be over 90 feet wide. Smaller hot air balloons tend to be around 40 feet wide.
Even on the smaller side, hot air balloons are actually massive! Why are they so big? Is there a way to make hot air balloons smaller? These questions and more answered below!
When I was growing up, I always wanted to be tall. Not just like kind of tall, but really, really tall! My Mom was over 6 feet tall, and most of my uncles were too.
As it just so happened, the tall jeans were alive and well in my family! All three of my brothers are over 6’3”. What about me you ask? I’m a healthy 5’10”.
Of course, as time went on, being the smallest in my family ended up really helping me out!
My lower center of gravity made me a formidable wrestler in the living room, I learned to play basketball against taller opponents, and it was a lot easier to find clothes for me!
The lesson here is that there’s nothing wrong with being a little smaller. As it just so happens, there’s also nothing wrong with being bigger! There are different strengths for different sizes!
Below we’ll look at three different sized hot air balloons. Each one has a different width, and each one is used for a different purpose. We’ll get to see why different hot air balloons are different sizes.
Each one of these balloons is a Cameron balloon. If you want to look at their excellent website, just click here! Cameron Balloons.
The O-Type is one of my personal hot air balloon envelopes. It’s on the smaller side, and it’s perfect for anything fun! Plus, I love their bulbous design! So cute!
At its smallest, the O-Type is 44 feet in diameter. At its largest, its 61 feet in diameter! This puts it in the small to medium-size category. So what would you use the O-Type for?
Well, as I mentioned above, they’re perfect for any kind of sport ballooning. On top of that, they can also be perfect for a show because of their shape!
The N-Type is the ultimate promotional hot air balloon. With its unique design, you can put anything on the envelope and it will be seen for miles around!
The N-Type spans from 45-76 feet wide. This also just so happens to be a very tall balloon, reaching up to 79 feet tall! This puts the N-type right in the medium size.
The A-Type is by far the largest balloon we’ll mention here! It is meant for one purpose and one purpose only: carrying as many people as possible! And it sure is good at its job!
The A-Type has a width between 61-86 feet. At it’s largest, this balloon can carry over 18 people! Now that’s pretty amazing! That’s 6,300 lbs. of gross lift!
Why so Big?
As we’ve already discussed, and as you can now attest to, hot air balloons are really massive! Even when they’re little they’re massive! That’s what I call an oxymoron!
But why are they so big? Is it all for show? Is the ballooning community at large compensating for something?
I mean, a hot air balloon is bigger than some airplanes, but they still can’t lift as much as an airplane. Nor can they steer like an airplane, or travel as far as an airplane can.
So what’s the deal?
Well, it actually all comes down to science. But in our modern era of technology, isn’t there any way to make them smaller? Well, just like airplanes, hot air balloons are bound by certain laws of physics.
They just so happen to follow different laws. And I think it goes without saying that hot air balloons are made for a different reason than airplanes.
Below we’ll look at why hot air balloons are so big, and discuss whether or not they can be any smaller!
The Science Behind Balloons
The science behind ballooning actually isn’t that complicated! That’s lucky for me! There are definitely some more advanced concepts, but the basics are just that: basic!
The first thing to know about hot air balloons is that hot air rises. When that hot air is trapped in a bag, like an envelope, it pushes against the top of the bag. Eventually, it creates enough lift to carry the bag into the sky!
Create enough lift and the hot air could carry the bag plus something tied to the bag! And that’s basically how a hot air balloon works! The air inside the envelope rises as it becomes heated, and that lifts the whole balloon!
Can They be Smaller?
So the question now becomes, can hot air balloons be smaller? Well, the short answer is no. But there are two very compelling reasons behind that answer.
First of all, you need a LOT of hot air to create enough lift to carry even one person. So if you want to lift a lot of people, you’ll need a massive amount of hot air!
The second reason is directly related to the first one. An envelope can only hold so much hot air. Even though we can’t see the air, there actually is a limit to how much can fit in an envelope.
So as you need a lot of hot air to create enough lift, you’ll need a really big envelope to hold all that air! And the bigger the envelope, the more weight there is to lift! Do you see where I’m going with this?
So for balloons that don’t need a lot of lift, they can be a little smaller. The more lift needed, the bigger the envelope!
Wait, How Big???
If you’ve ever played football, you might know the feeling of seeing the guy across from you and going, “Wait! Do I have to match up with that guy? No way!”.
Maybe you were on the other side of that equation. In any case, hot air balloons are kind of like that massive football player. When you finally get close to them, you just kind of have to go, “wow”.
Well, in light of that, I wanted to include some more facts in this section that would make you go, “wow”.
I’ll compare three really big things to the width of an average hot air balloon. Remember that on average, hot air balloons tend to be about 60 feet in width.
Prepare to be amazed by how these objects, that are obviously massive, compared to the width of an average hot air balloon!
The Hollywood Sign
The Hollywood sign is BIG. I mean, you can see it from so far away! Would you be surprised that the Hollywood sign isn’t as tall as a hot air balloon is wide?
That’s right, the Hollywood sign is just 49 feet tall! So if you turned it sideways, it would only equal the same width as a smaller hot air balloon.
As it just so happens, a certified tenpin bowling lane is supposed to be 62.8480 feet long. That’s just a little longer than the width of our average hot air balloon!
Imagine for a moment taking a bowling lane and turning it sideways. That’s roughly the width of an average hot air balloon! Isn’t that just amazing!
A Rubber Duck
Wait… a rubber duck? Well, not just any rubber duck, the world’s largest rubber duck! As it just so happens, the world’s largest rubber duck is exactly 60 feet tall!
That means that the biggest rubber duck in the whole world is as tall as an average hot air balloon is wide. Now doesn’t that put some things into perspective!
And for your viewing pleasure, I’ve included a clip below of the world’s largest rubber duck. Enjoy!