Have you ever wondered what makes up a hot air balloon? » BALLOONS ABOVE THE VALLEY | Napa hot air balloon rides

Napa Valley is famous for its world-class wines, excellent cuisine, stunning scenery, great weather, and, in case you didn’t know, its Napa hot air balloon rides.

For decades, thousands of visitors have enjoyed Napa hot air balloon rides while drifting quietly above the length of the Valley’s breathtaking landscape bordered by a stunning mountain backdrop. Experienced visitors vow there is no better way to greet a glorious morning in Napa Valley than with a balloon flight by one of the most longstanding Napa hot air balloon ride providers, Balloons Above the Valley.

Operating a hot air balloon is a technical process. Pilots must be trained and licensed much like any other aircraft pilot. Far more than simply increasing the volume of hot air to rise and reducing it to descend, flight operations demand exceptional skills to fly safely and comfortably, then land at the target location.

Critical Components of a Hot Air Balloon

While there are fewer moving parts in a passenger-carrying hot air balloon, safe operations demand skill, experience, and a significant understanding of atmospheric wind and weather conditions.

Here is a list of the principal parts:

Passenger Compartment

Besides holding the fuel tanks and burner needed for ascending, the substantial wicker-made, basket or gondola is where the pilot and passengers stand during the flight. These vary in size depending on how many passengers the balloon ride will accommodate. Larger baskets with proportionately sized balloons are equipped with partitions to separate the higher number of passengers.

Balloons Above the Valley, a leading Napa hot air balloon company, operates the largest balloons. The baskets are divided into five sections, one on each corner for passengers and a center section that allows the pilot a full range of motion during the flight. Spacing passengers in pre-sectioned areas of the basket helps maintain proper weight distribution and allows the pilot to operate without interference. The gondola sections offer panoramic, unobstructed views for each passenger.

Partitioning has been helpful also to allow for proper social distancing during the pandemic.

Balloon or Envelope

The most visible part of a hot air balloon construction is the often multi-colored balloon made up of nylon panels called “gores” that contour to the balloon’s familiar shape to retain the hot air that causes the entire unit to rise.

The balloon itself has specifically designed sections designed for safety and longevity. The top or “crown” consists of heavier nylon material with a coating that protects the fabric from high heat levels and molds that can develop.

The lower level of the envelope, nearest the pilot and the heat-producing burner, is called the “skirt.” Made from a flame-resistant material called Nomex, the skirt section channels the heated air into the envelope for altitude control.

Balloons Above the Valley, a premier Napa hot air balloon company, operates the largest balloons with 400,000 cubic feet capacity. Oversized balloons allow the company to host more passengers per trip allowing everyone to partake in this amazing experience.

Altitude Control

The pilot manages and maneuvers the balloon with an array of ropes and cords that allow the pilot to release heat within the envelope to alter the vantage point or to begin descending to the desired landing spot.


The burner is, in essence, the engine that drives the Napa hot air balloon. The propane-heated air pushed into the envelope causes the balloon to rise. Larger balloons may require multiple burners since more hot air is necessary to lift and maintain altitude.

To maintain the highest level of safety during the flight, only licensed pilots can operate these burners while in flight.

Safe, Fun, and Exciting: Balloons Above the Valley Napa Hot Air Balloons

Add to your fun-filled memorable experiences in Napa Valley with a Napa hot air balloon ride with Balloons Above the Valley. Greet the morning with a pleasant, safe, and glorious flight over the vineyards and towns of stunning Napa Valley.

For more information, make reservations for your breathtaking Napa hot air balloon ride, or purchase Gift Certificates for future flights, visit the Balloons Above the Valley website.

You may also phone our Balloons Above the Valley reservationists at +1-800-464-6824.