aeronaut: A pilot of a balloon or other aircraft

aeroplane (variant spelling): A heavier-than-air fixed-wing aircraft

aerostat: An inflatable aircraft that has no means of lateral propulsion. It either drifts freely with the wind or is tethered to the ground by a long rope or cable.

anchor: In gas ballooning, a hook used during landing for both ballast release and snagging the ground to slow the balloon’s forward progress

ballast: In gas ballooning, a weight dropped overboard to aid in control of a balloon’s altitude. This generally involves pouring sand from a bag or dropping the entire bag, thus creating an ascent or slowing a descent.

barometer: An instrument that measures atmospheric pressure and is calibrated to indicate altitude above sea level

basket: A balloon’s car or gondola, sometimes called a cage, typically constructed of tightly woven rattan or wicker. Baskets are circular or rectangular and carry human cargo and supplies. The sides vary in height from 3 to 5 feet. The basket is often wooden, with skids on the underside.

buoyancy: The tendency of a balloon to rise or float in the air. Buoyancy can be lost when ambient air cools, lifting gas leaks or is released, or weight (including rainwater) is added to the balloon. Buoyancy can increase with the loss of a passenger or ballast.

cabane: A strut or brace, typically on the top of a wing, used for the attachment of stays that hold the wing in a level position

captive flight: Flight in a buoyant balloon held captive to the ground by mooring lines or tether lines—as opposed to free flight, when the balloon is unhampered by anything attached to the ground. For very high captive flights, say 1,000 feet, the tether lines (cables or heavy ropes) are reeled in and out by a winch.

carriage: A gondola-type framework rigidly attached below a dirigible’s gasbag to house the pilot and the power plant

coal gas: A flammable lifting gas that is mostly comprised of hydrogen, methane, and carbon monoxide. It is made by burning coal in a low-oxygen environment.

dirigible: A horizontally elongated, hydrogen gas–filled airship that is propelled forward by an onboard engine turning a propeller and is steered by a rudder. It is somewhat aerodynamically streamlined in that it has a blunt nose and a pointed tail (stern).

dirigibility: The capability of a lighter-than-air flying machine to be steered or directed in flight

drag rope: A long, heavy rope that orients a balloon and rip panel to the wind. It is also used to slow the balloon’s descent rate and horizontal speed. As “recoverable ballast,” it helps save other types of ballast.

free flight: When a balloon is buoyant and drifting freely, with no ties to Earth, and travels through the atmosphere at the same speed and direction as the wind. If there is no wind, the balloon reaches a state of equilibrium and hangs motionless over a fixed point on the ground. In such cases, the pilot may elect to climb higher or drop lower in search of more suitable wind. The direction and speed of wind vary with altitude and terrain.

gasbag: A spherical or tear-shaped bag made of tapered strips of muslin sewn together using a lockstitch. The cloth is interwoven with linen or silk and made impervious to the release of gas by a light coating of oil.

gas balloon: Historically, a balloon that used coal gas from a municipal main that normally supplied illuminating or heating gas to connected customers, or a balloon that used hydrogen as the lifting gas. Hydrogen, which has much more lifting power than coal gas, could be generated on-site and piped to the inflating balloon. Modern gas balloons typically use hydrogen or helium, and may use anhydrous ammonia or methane for training flights. Filling takes place at the neck, a tapered appendix at the base of the gasbag, which is designed to receive a filling tube, pipe, or hose. The neck is tied off after filling but untied after launch to allow expanding gas to escape, thus preventing rupture.

glider: An unpowered fixed-wing aircraft

guide ropes: handling lines attached to a gasbag and dangling within reach of ground crew members. The ropes are used to steady the balloon during inflation.

hot air balloon: A balloon filled with air, which expands when heated above the ambient temperature and becomes lighter. However, even at 212°F, hot air has only a quarter of the lifting power of hydrogen.

hydrogen gas: A gas that is fourteen and a half times lighter than air, thus providing very good buoyancy. While hydrogen can easily be generated on-site using iron filings and sulfuric acid, it has one major drawback: it is extremely flammable when in contact with oxygen.

moorings: Lines attached to a load ring and anchored to the ground to secure and steady a balloon

netting: A strong net wrapped around a gasbag and secured to a solid-oak load ring, which in turn is attached to the basket by ropes. Netting adds considerable strength to gas balloons. It can also serve as a parachute for the balloon if for some reason the envelope fails.

parachute: A strong, lightweight, dome-shaped canopy used to slow the descent of a suspended person by creating drag through the atmosphere

release valve: A spring-loaded vent at the top of a balloon that can be operated by a rope extending to the pilot in the basket. It can be used as a pressure relief valve when gas expands at high altitude and as a means to deflate the balloon. The valve can become stuck open or closed.

rip panel: A section of a gasbag that is lightly fixed in place. On or near the ground, the pilot can pull a cord to open the rip panel to quickly deflate the balloon. Spectators often viewed this opening as an accidental tear in the balloon fabric, when in fact it was intentional.

smoke balloon: A hot air balloon inflated by suspending a wide-throated muslin bag above burning kerosene-soaked wood, so that hot smoky air fills the balloon. The smoke and soot help seal pores in the fabric so that the balloon holds heat longer. Smoke balloons have no airborne heat source and no disposable ballast—hence no means of flight control. They also have no netting and no basket for passengers. Generally a “smoke jumper” with a parachute is suspended by ropes until he or she jerks the connection loose from the gasbag. (With a gas balloon, the weight of the jumper jerks the line free.) Smoke balloons became popular at fairs and exhibitions as parachutes were perfected. During inflation, hot flying embers in the balloon’s interior sometimes set the muslin on fire, which was dangerous if the fire was not discovered until after the pilot signaled, “Let her go!”

trapeze artist: A performer who ascends with a smoke balloon or gas balloon while sitting or hanging on a trapeze suspended from a parachute attached to the balloon. During the ascent, the artist might perform acrobatic acts. At the desired altitude, the artist parachutes back to Earth.

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