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Gila and Salt River Base and Meridian Hot Air Balloon and Airship Ascension Social Society, Inc.

Established 1975 as the

Arizona Balloon Club

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Arizona Balloon Club By-Laws

Balloons flying over Albuquerque
Balloons Over Albuquerque

How high can a balloon fly?

Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR 91.119): Except when necessary for takeoff and landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following minimums:

Over Congested Areas - Click Here;

Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obsticle with a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

Over Other Than Congested Areas - Click Here;

An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparcely populated areas.

Sparcely Populated Areas - Click Here;

In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

Note - Click Here;

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not specifically define congested area, other than congested area, or sparcely populated area.

Helicopters - Click Here;

Helicopters may operate below the prescribed minimums FAR 91.119(d)(1).

Fudge Factor: FAR 91.119(a) - Click Here;

An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface. Editor's note: For a balloon that is close to the ground.

Hot air balloon at high altitude
Balloons way up there

What is the maximum altitude for a balloon?

Depends on:

Ambient (outside air) Temperature - Click Here;

Temperatures between 30 degrees and 60 degrees (F) are ideal for ballooning. Low fuel pressure is a problem in cold weather requiring either warming the tanks or injecting nitrogen into the tanks. High temperatures requires reducing the passenger load.

Envelope (the nylon part) Temperature - Click Here;

Excessive heat inside the envelope damages the fabric. Balloon seldom fly with an envelope temperature above 250 (F).

Balloon Weight - Click Here;

Sport balloons typically weigh between 600 pounds and 900 pounds. Big balloons, above 180,000 cubic feet, used by ride companies weigh well over 1,000 pounds.

Passenger Weight - Click Here;

Sport balloons typically carry two or sometimes three passengers. A good rule-of-thumb is to estimate 160 pounds per person. So a pilot and two passengers would weigh in at 480 pounds.

Envelope Size - Click Here;

Most sport balloons are 90,000 cubic feet or less.

Altitude Calculator - click on the list above for reasonable values.

Formula courtesy of Cameron Balloons US.

Enter Ambient (outside air) Temperature (F);
Enter Envelope (the nylon part) Temperature (F);
Enter Balloon Weight Including Fuel (lb);
Enter Passenger Weight (lb);

Drop Down Menu: Select Envelope Size in Cubic Feet.

Balloon will rise to feet above sea level.