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Hot air balloons Ups and Downs.

Posted on 1 May 2014

As we work and grow, we learn. We learn many new things and in the process forget as many things.

At times we have to learn the same lesson many times before it “sticks” in our mind.

Our lives get busy and we are driving as hard as we can but in the process we miss some of the lessons in front of our noses.

Recently I was reminiscing with some friends about the many years I owned and flew hot air balloons, when one of them asked about how much control one has in directing such a craft and whether one was simply at the mercy of the prevailing winds. This lead to a detailed discussion on the subject that to many could be quite boring, so I will not repeat it here.

Later that night several thoughts popped up in my mind. I could of course claim that my brilliant mind extracted these nuggets, but that would be a lie.

Controlling a hot air balloon is simple in principle but a lot harder in practice. The basics are that one is heating air inside an envelope so as to create lift ( hot air rises ) and the amount of lift required depends on the total weight one is lifting and the ambient temperature of the air.

Once one has the heat in the envelope such that it starts rising, one has to determine at what height one wants to fly level. At that point one has to reach an accurate balance with inside and outside temperatures and the weight balanced to produce level flight. Most trainees struggle with this aspect of flying and end up “porpoising”, oscillating up and down while they struggle to maintain level flight.

Easy so far, BUT the outside air temperature changes all the time and the hot air inside the balloon cools down unless more hot air is added. Therefore, what sounds and looks easy is, in fact, quite challenging.

Now consider what happens when one wants to go higher or lower. One has to adjust the temperature inside the envelope to either ascend ( more heat ) or descend ( less heat ) and one has to be careful as too little heat could result in an uncontrolled crash landing and too much heat will result in an uncontrolled “lift”, hopefully with lesser consequences.

There, now you can go and fly a balloon. Well not really, but what I described are the basics of level flight. However what is required to achieve even this simple level of proficiency is a lot more. One has to learn the theory of flight, meteorology, aerostatics and a lot more besides.

Then we have the big BUT - once you have acquired all these skills and knowledge one has to practice, make mistakes, more practice, more mistakes and lots of physical effort.

Part of this one can do in the classroom, but the real stuff must be done in the real world where we also require a well trained crew to setup and retrieve the balloon as nobody can fly a balloon entirley on their own !

In our daily lives we strive to achieve many things, but compare your business activities to the process I described and ask yourself a few questions.

Determine how much you have learnt, how much you have practiced, have you failed enough, can you ‘fly level’, how good is your crew, do you have all the required equipment.

In the end we must be able to pilot our ventures with confidence and that will require, learning, failing, falling down and the occasional crash-landing, but if we stick to it, continue to improve our skills and work with a good crew, we can achieve and maintain level flight at any altitude.


Tags: Finding Harmony -


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