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Storage Puffin is stored in a tightly wrapped state

Pulling Puffin Out

Puffin is stored in a tightly wrapped state within a heavy quality custom sewn canvas bag.

Photo © Dee White 2004


    Burner test

Burner test

Before the basket is tilted over to attach to the envelope, a burner test MUST be performed as part of the pre-flight checks.

This is necessary as we need to check that all fuel lines inside the basket are securely connected and that there is enough pressure in the lines to produce an efficient flame. A fuel check is also done at this time.

Photo © Dee White 2004

The balloon The Envelope
The Envelope

The actual balloon is referred to as "The Envelope", which is constructed from long nylon sections called gores. The gores extend from the base of the envelope to the crown and are made up of many smaller panels. The main part of the envelope (the bottom two thirds) is normally made from a combination of nylon or polyester, the same type of material that parachutes are made of.

Photo © Murray Davidson 2003
It is very tightly woven and is coated with a material that makes it extremely air tight and durable. Nylon works very well in balloons because it is lightweight, but it is also fairly sturdy and has a high melting temperature.

The basket is tilted over and laid on it's side to allow us attach the envelope flying wires to it. It is in this position that we inflate Puffin with cold air.

The bottom part of the envelope, referred to as the scoop or skirt (nearest to the burner) is made from a material called Nomex. Nomex is an industry standard flame resistant material used in other industries such as Formula 1 Racing and also in the suits of Firefighters. It is used near the mouth (base) of the envelope as this area is prone to the most heat from the burner.

The material used nearer the top of the envelope is known as Hyperlast. It has been around for many years and is used just in this top 3rd of the envelope. What makes Hyperlast desirable to use is that the nylon base fabric is woven from a heavier yarn, which increases the strength a great deal. Also Hyperlast has a silicone coating added to both sides of the fabric which helps to protect the envelope from the growth of mould or fungi.

Inflation fan

Fan powered by 5.5hp Honda engine to inflate Puffin
How we inflate Puffin

We use an inflation fan powered by a 5.5hp Honda engine to blow the cold air into Puffin.

We Huff and We Puff and we cold inflate Puffin
With the envelope laid out on it's side, the fan is placed in position and we commence the 'cold inflating' of the envelope.

We also have the entire rig secured by a special release system attached to the front of the jeep (with handbrake engaged and keys left in ignition).

As you can see, the top or 'crown' part of the envelope is being held down by a crew member.

It is at this stage, the entire Balloon is given a walk-around inspection by the pilot.

Cold inflation of Puffin
Photo © Sean Linehan 2004
The Burner System The burner system

This is used to heat the air in the envelope (Balloon).

The Sirocco ® Burner.

The Burner is like the engine of the hot air balloon. It is what propels the hot air up into the envelope to make the balloon move upwards into the air.

Photo © Aidan Murphy 2003

This is what we use to heat the air inside the envelope and so create the lift required to enable Puffin to get airborne.

Note the customised height adjustable pneumatic frame holding the burner. Modern hot air balloons use propane in the burner to heat the air. The propane is stored in cylinders which are kept in the balloon basket, along with the passengers and the pilot.

The propane is highly compressed in canisters and flows to the burner in liquid form. When the pilot starts the burner up, the propane flows to it and is ignited by a pilot light. Puffin burns approximately 30 gallons of propane an hour.

As the flame burns, its heats up the metal in the surrounding tubing and when the tubing becomes hot it heats the propane flowing through it. This process changes the propane from a liquid to a gas before it is ignited. The gas makes for a more powerful flame and an overall more efficient fuel consumption.

Puffin burns approximately 30 gallons of propane an hour.
Propane gauge
Heating the air inside the envelope
Puff it up!

With the envelope packed with lots of cold air, we then crack open Puffin's powerful burners and heat the air inside.

Puffin contains over 2 tonnes of cold air while on the ground. Heat applied to the air in the balloon envelope expands all the air molecules, until sufficient weight of air has been expelled to make the system lighter and buoyant, so that it wants to float.

Puffin's powerful burners
Photo © Murray Davidson 2003

All the weight of the balloon basket, fuel, envelope, and passengers must be got rid of by expelling air from the balloon, by heating the air, and reducing the air weight inside the envelope. The same principle enables a ship and its cargo to float on water or a bubble to rise in a tank of water: because it is lighter than the water surrounding it.

For Example: the ship and its cargo are lighter than the water they displace.

The Basket with Burner These days most baskets are woven from Kooboo and Palambang
The Puffin Basket

The basket is the bottom part of the balloon which carries the passengers, pilot and propane flight cylinders.

These days most baskets are woven from Kooboo and Palambang cane as these materials are extremely sturdy, flexible and relatively lightweight. The cane has proven to be the most hard wearing and durable material, even more so than aluminum or some composite plastics. The basket needs to be extremely strong as it is constantly on the move, being shifted from place to place and also when the balloon actually lands there is a large amount of force exerted on it as it hits the floor and comes grinding to a halt. The flexibility of the cane helps with the balloon landing as wicker material flexes a little, absorbing some of the energy.

Photo © Aidan Murphy 2003

Our fuel supply for the adventure Flight Cylinders

Flight Cylinders

Balloons use Propane gas. Puffin carries 3 flight cylinders, 2 x 40 litre stainless steel and 1 x 60 litre titanium flight cylinders.

This photo shows one stainless steel (40 litre) and our 60 litre titanium flight cylinder.

Photo © Aidan Murphy 2003

Our Communication Links VXA150

We use type approved aviation (air-band) transceivers to communicate between Puffin, the retrieve crew and A.T.C when and where appropriate.

On Board the Balloon

For air band communications on board Puffin, we use a *Professional-Grade Air-Band Portable Transceiver.Our chosen radio for flying is a rugged 'military-spec' unit and is of water-resistant construction, ideal for the odd "bumpy" landing. An I.A.A issued Flight Radio Telephony License is required in order to operate an air band radio transceiver.

On Retrieve

Rugged and reliable for serious ground crew communications. Setting a new standard for ground based communications, the ICOM-A110 provides durability and reliability in demanding operating environments.

Airborne Amateur Radio

Puffin is fully licensed to operate Ham Radio and even has her very own unique call sign: EI 2 AIR

The radio we use is also unique as it allows for transmission on the aircraft band (AM) and also the amateur band (FM).

For more information on Amateur Radio, go to our Amateur Radio page: click here

Our Navigation System
Satellite Tracking

Puffin uses a state of the art Garmin GPSmap 96C® to assist in flight navigation.

This unit can also record our airspeed (in kts) and can assist greatly in advising the retrieve crew of our exact landing position.

Measuring our Altitude Digifly variometer
The Variometer

Puffin uses a Digifly ® variometer. This flight instrument measures altitude, referencing a given known height (launch site) or from air pressure (pressure altitude).

It also tells us Puffin's rate of accent or decent. This is read off a scale as feet per minute.

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