Our site concentrates on Hot Air Balloon Rides and balloon flying because for the majority this is the most affordable way to take to the skies in a lighter than air machine.
But for a lucky few it is now possible to go gas ballooning. The main centres for this are America, where regular gas balloon races are held and in Europe where there is a more established gas balloon training environment. Particularly in the industrial areas of Germany where hydrogen supply is part of many manufacturing processes, enthusiastic gas ballooning clubs have been set up nearby supply pipelines.
The first manned balloon flight was made in 1783 in a hot air balloon. But within a month a gas balloon that was filled (very slowly!) with hydrogen produced by dropping sulphuric acid onto iron filings flew with a Professor Charles from Paris and soon gas ballooning predominated ballooning for the next 200 years. Filling these balloons using "coal gas" from the mains supply to houses of the time was a slow process, often done in the late evening over several hours until the balloon was ready to take off at night. Inflating the balloon at night also provides the lightest winds and the safest conditions.
Modern "netless" gas balloons can be unloaded and made ready to fly in less than 30 minutes and can then make flights of several days duration if the pilots are suitably prepared to fly through the night. This is dramatically different to a flight in a hot air balloon where a flight duration of greater than a couple of hours would be exceptional.
Compared to a hot air balloon that uses propane as its fuel, a gas balloon is filled with a lighter than air gas such as helium or hydrogen, but it is the sand that it carries as "ballast" that will determine the duration of its flight. If you make many practice approaches as you would do if you were learning to fly a gas balloon, then you can easily get through most of your sand in a day flight of 6-10 hours.
One of the most noticeable aspects of gas ballooning that differs from balloon rides in a hot air balloon is that the motion is absolutely silent, there is no noise from a burner. So it is possible to fly at low level over people going about their everyday life and surprise them by calling down. Often it takes them quite a while to understand where the voices are coming from.