Hot Air Balloon Sales ~ Service ~ Pilot Flight Training
For a Hot Air Balloon Ride visit Hot Air Balloon Ride Michigan
(248) 624-5137

FireFly Balloonstm are made at The Balloon Works in Statesville, North Carolina. More of a craftsman's workshop than a factory, The Balloon Works is where all aspects of a FireFly Balloon are designed and crafted. It's a place with the earthy, friendly smells of wood shavings, leather and wicker. Everything that bears the Balloon Works name is made there and the engineers still design the products in-house to ensure they're built to the exacting standards that have been progressively developing since 1972.

Over 1200 separate inspections take place during the construction of each balloon. Every piece - valves, hoses, ropes, panels - whether fabricated in the workshop or not, undergoes a rigid incoming first-piece inspection. Every fuel tank is pressure-checked. Every roll of fabric is tested for tensile and tear strength, porosity and color variations, and flaws in weaving, before it's labeled airworthy. Each panel is inspected as it's sewn into its gore, and each completed gore is again inspected as it moves from one sewing station to another. Sewing machines are calibrated twice a day, every day, to ensure consistent conformity with their sewing specifications. When each balloon is finished, it's inspected again, fully assembled and inflated on the test field, under flight conditions. This almost fanatical attention to detail results in a quality-control program that is unrivaled in the ballooning industry.

Concepts Behind The FireFly Balloon System
The successful design of a modern Hot Air Balloon is an engineering problem that must combine three distinct components  - an envelope, an engine and a carriage - into an integrated, functional whole that is both safe and practical in its assembly. The Balloon Works, with its trademark FlexNet Envelope, Mirage Burner and Triangular Carriage has created the intelligent solution to this problem - The FireFly Balloontm.

FireFly Hot Air Balloon BasketThe Triangular Carriage
The Balloon Carriage is the most complex structure of the entire system and presents the most challenging design problems because of the variety of functions it must serve.

  • It must provide a structure strong enough to carry its Certified static and inertial loads safely.
  • It must provide secure accommodation for the pilot and passengers during the entire flight experience, particularly during landings.
  • It must provide secure, logical and convenient locations for instruments, fuel, plumbing and burner.
  • It should provide a safe and secure storage area for maps, strikers and tools.
  • It should be flexible, lightweight and well-balanced.
  • It should be easy and inexpensive to maintain and repair.
  • It should be aesthetically pleasing.

The equilateral triangle is the most stable shape in nature and The Balloon Works has chosen it as the basis for many aspects of their product. Most apparent is the Triangular Carriage which is unique to The Balloon Works. For any given floor area, the triangle provides the most stable base and longest sides. The three 60 degree angles provide maximum floor space for pilot and passengers while storing the fuel cylinders, hoses and instruments safely out of the way in the recessed corners. The ingenuity evident in its construction is unsurpassed. The 9-ply birch hardwood floor is actually cradled in a net of six aircraft ropes certified to lift 18,000 pounds. Securely fastened to a central tie-plate by eye splices and protected from abrasion by super tough plastic tubing, the suspension ropes run through hardwood skids, up through the floor, up the carriage structure and out the burner supports to end in an ultra-strong loop used to fasten the toggles at the end of the envelope suspension ropes.

The wicker carriage is woven with a tight, vertical weave, well suited to resisting entanglement in branches or power lines. Horizontal weaves can easily snag. A finishing urethane coating inside and out ensures the wicker will resist drying out and becoming brittle or rotting from prolonged exposure to moisture. This maintains the wickers ability to flex, absorbing and distributing any bumps during landings.

FireFly Mirage Hot Air Balloon BurnerThe Mirage Burner
The engineers at The Balloon Works, balloonists amongst them, developed a set of criteria by which they would design their burner system.

  • Burner Reliability - Both the primary liquid vaporization system and the pilot burner must be highly dependable to minimize malfunctions and flame-outs.
  • Burner Output - To increase flight safety margins, the absolute burner output must be extremely high.
  • Flame Characteristics - The flame must be efficient and clean burning, giving off a minimum of soot and radiant heat. The flame should be shaped to minimize scorches and burns to the envelope.
  • Mounting - The burner should be mounted so that the flame can be precisely directed, it cannot tip over or pose a danger to the people in the basket and it must be self-centering when the handle is released. The fuel lines should be isolated to prevent catching on branches or power lines. Passengers should be prevented from using them as support during landings.
  • Safety and Convenience - The burner should be comfortable to use and fully operational with one hand. It requires a fast on-off response time to reduce the likelihood of fabric damage during inflations and landings. It must not permit the flame to wash back onto the pilot or passengers.
  • Redundancy - In the unlikely event of a major failure in the primary burner, there must be an equally efficient back-up auxiliary system that is powerful enough to climb, arrest a descent and allow a controlled landing.

FireFly Mirage Hot Air Balloon BurnerDeveloped as an alternative to the FireFly T-3 Burner in the 1990's, the Mirage soon became the standard in ballooning for which all other burners were compared. With its unique design, whisper quiet flame and unsurpassed power, to this day no other burner can compete.

The Mirage comes as standard equipment on all FireFly systems. On our larger systems ranging from the 120,00 cu.ft. to our 280,000 cu.ft. systems dual Mirage burners are standard equipment.

The Mirage burner has a built in redundant burner called Fire 2. Fire 2, runs independently from the standard Mirage burner. In the unlikely event of a main burner or hose failure, the Mirage can be operated with ease using the Fire 2 backup system. Running on liquid alone the Fire 2 is also great for Glows!

Stainless steel encloses the Inconel coils providing extra heat to vaporize the propane and add to the efficiency of the burner. Inconel is used for the coils due to the fact that it doesn't break down over time from being heated over and over. It is more costly than stainless but well worth the price.

With three simple clips the burner is mounted in the uprights making it the easiest burner to install and remove from your FireFly system.

The FireFly Envelope
FireFly balloons envelopes are designed like no other on the market. Starting with the durable maXflite silicone coated ripstop nylon, to the Flex-Net construction, you'll see and feel a marked difference in the FireFly balloon envelope.

FireFly uses maXflite silicone coated ripstop nylon for all it's systems. No need for a more durable, heavier fabric to make your balloons top last longer, maXflite is the answer. The envelope is constructed using the patented Flex-Net construction. A simple solution to assembly that makes the FireFly envelope less expensive to repair and maintain. The replacement of panels is a snap with Flex-Net!

All FireFly envelopes also come standard with the FireFly Parachute valve, it is by far the most ingenious approach to date, for envelope deflation Its normal resting position is closed and only operates by deliberate and continuous action. It is automatically re-sealable, irrespective of how many times the valve has been used, and no action is required in closing other than letting go of the valve line. Capable of proportional valving for small adjustments to vertical flights or for releasing huge amounts of air for deflation. Another simple FireFly solution to a ballooning problem.

The FireFly Envelope Parachute Valve is by far the most ingenious approach to date. Its normal resting position is closed and it only operates by deliberate and continuous action. It is automatically re-sealable, irrespective of how many times it has been used, and no action is required to accomplish its closing other than letting it alone. It's capable of proportional valving, releasing huge amounts of air for deflation or small amounts for adjustments to vertical flight. Its position at the top of the envelope prevents its dislocation from snagging.

How does it work? First, they put a hole in the top of the balloon with a stiffener around it to act as a seal. Next, they fill the hole with a fabric disc that's slightly larger than the hole. Attached to the perimeter of the disc is a set of lines that connect to each other at a focal point below, inside the envelope. This point is then attached to a rope which extends down to the carriage to act as the control for the valve. Another set of lines connected to the disc, are in turn connected to the envelope at the gore seams to limit the downward distance of the disc. To prevent the valve from popping out the top of the balloon, the load cords in the envelope (the ones sliding inside those pockets) extend past their attachment at the top girdle and connect to a central steel ring. The valve is held against this rope net with the push of the heated air inside the envelope. By using some simple laws of physics, the valve provides a venting capability and versatility superior to anything used before it in ballooning.

Hot Air Balloon Rides in Michigan provided by Wicker Basket Balloon Center
50140 Pontiac Trail - Wixom, Michigan 48393
(248) 624-5137
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