Many guests that visit Conner Prairie look forward to taking a flight in our tethered gas (helium) balloon in our 1859 Balloon Voyage exhibit
. Quite commonly guests mistake our gas balloon for a hot air balloon. While there are many similarities and differences between our gas balloon and modern hot air balloons, some of the most noticeable differences and similarities are the feelings experienced in flight.
The third weekend in Sept. will mark the 10th anniversary of my first hot air balloon flight and the beginning of my student pilot certification, which would make it entirely appropriate for me to explain some of the differences and similarities experienced when flying in each type of balloon.
One of the most common misconceptions after flying in our gas balloon, particularly when it is windy and the balloon slowly sways across the sky, is that a hot air balloon would sway, rock and feel unsteady because it is free from a cable. Interestingly enough, hot air balloons in free flight are extremely stable.
This is due to the fact you are traveling with the wind in a hot air balloon. You could essentially hold a candle while flying in a hot air balloon and no matter how fast you’re traveling the candle shouldn’t flicker.
One profound similarity that our gas balloon and hot air balloons share is a spectacular view! Our balloon can go to a maximum ride height of 387 feet, while hot air balloons, on average, go up to around 1,000 - 2,000 feet. Surprisingly though, the view from either height is essentially the same. Indiana is a very flat state, making it difficult to see much further than about 40 miles on even the clearest days, in both hot air balloons and our gas balloon.
There are several similarities and differences between both balloons, which is why flying in the Conner Prairie 1859 Balloon Voyage gas balloon is such a truly unique experience! Do you have a favorite experience flying in our balloon?