How hot is too hot for hot air balloons? When temperatures reach 100-degrees and heat indices hit 115, that’s pushing it, according to the balloon meister for the National Balloon Classic, underway this week in Indianola.
Jason Jones makes the call before every balloon ascension whether it’s safe to fly and he says sometimes it’s too hot. Jones says you have to heat the inside of the balloon about 150-degrees hotter than the temperature outside the balloon to get the lift needed to fly. He says “So when it’s 110-(degrees) heat index, definitely the heat can play a major factor in whether we’re going to fly or not.”
Besides demanding more fuel to stay aloft in extreme heat, Jones says high temps also take a toll on the people in the balloon — and on the balloon itself. He says all hot air balloon manufacturers have a “red line temperature,” the temp at which the balloon is not to be flown at for an extended period of time. He says if the air temp is already 100-degrees and the balloon has to be heated to 250-degrees, pilots may skip the flight because they’re already too close to that red line.
Jones says there’s an old saying in ballooning that goes “I’d rather be on the ground wishing I was flying than in the air wishing I was on the ground.” He knows it’s vital to make the correct decision, as more than 100 balloon pilots at the annual festival are counting on him.
“You’re never wrong if you err on the side of safety and you miss a flight, but of course with an event that is trying to bring in money through the gate, there is some pressure to try to make the right decision and make sure the people see balloons and see a show which maybe they drove for hours to come and see.” The classic is underway through Saturday. For more information, surf to “www.nationalballoonclassic.com”.
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Balloon Classic info