Hot air balloons are almost never seen here in Malaysia. So when we heard that there was going to be a hot air balloon fiesta at Putrajaya we jumped at the chance to witness the “lighter-than-air” flying machines in action. Lighter-than-air because they rely on buoyancy to stay afloat instead of engine power.
Our initial plan was to be the first 50 to arrive that morning to be eligible to ride on the balloons for RM10. But then it turned out there were already tons of people at 7am and balloon rides today (Sunday) were only for the orphans. So I wasn’t too disappointed since it’s for a good cause. And the morning light was so perfect. The only time when I had such lovely lighting was when I’m at home with my flashes.
The balloons are transported to the site with their envelope neatly folded up. To begin inflating the balloon, they unfold the envelope and blow cold air into it using a gas-powered blower. This will blow cold air into the balloon and slowly inflate the envelope.
I asked permission from one of the crew if I could take a quick look inside the balloon while it was being inflated because I didn’t want to get cooked when they fire the burners. She said yes and the above is what you’ll see when you’re inside the envelope when it is being inflated. Air will be blowing from behind you. This is the peacock-shaped balloon by the way.
Once the envelope has inflated satisfactory by the gas-powered blowers (usually takes around 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the balloon), the burners are fired up to heat the cold air inside the balloon. At this stage, the balloon envelope is still resting on the ground so the burners are fired at an angle into the balloon as seen from the photo above.
The heated air inside the envelope will slowly cause it to rise. Soon the balloon will be in the vertical position and the balloon is now ready for take off.
Flying a balloon requires a CPL (commercial pilot license). They have simple onboard instruments to tell them things like altitude, vertical speed, balloon air temperature, ambient air temperature and maybe a GPS for guidance.
Taking off is simple. The marshals will give the all clear and the burners will be fired up and the balloon will rise up and move in whichever direction the wind is blowing. Actually the thought of flying something without any form of control (except going up and down) is scary to me since I’m a control freak.
Soon all the balloons were in the air and by 8:45am we left for breakfast and went on to shoot the rest of Putrajaya. This was indeed a very interesting event (as expected) and hopefully there will be more to come. Always good to have something new to learn and experience.
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