My 12 year old nephew wants to know...

Center_Mid

Well-Known Member
My nephew asked me the other day: when kids let go of helium balloons at a county fair or wherever, do jet pilots ever fly past the balloons?

I'm a pilot who never ventures into the FLs, so I told him that I wasn't sure but that I thought that most little helium balloons get up to about seven or eight thousand feet before leaking helium and becoming too heavy. Personally, I've flown past kids' balloons at 2-8 thousand feet, but I can't recall seeing any around 9 or 10 thousand. Granted, they're tough to spot even at C172 speeds. On the other hand, some websites out there say that a typical latex balloon without a string can reach FL280 or so before they burst from the pressure differential.

So, my question is: what is the highest altitude at which you've flown past those little balloons?
 

Air Pirate

Well-Known Member
I've come across 'em @ 10,000' MSL. Normally it's those cursed car dealership balloon clusters! It brings a whole new meaning to the term "Air Pollution." :rolleyes:

Check 6,
Air Pirate out.

www.flyefi.com
F70, SoCal
 

Velocipede

New Member
Oh yeah! We see them a lot.

In fact, once I was flying in the SW and we got a call from ATC to be on the lookout for a Hot Air balloon envelope that was reported at 30,000 feet.
 

Foxcow

Well-Known Member
I almost hit one descending through 11,000ft at 310kts and I just recently heard "a large clump of party baloons" being reported by a crew ahead of us climbing through 32,000ft.
 

Wolfy

Well-Known Member
Do you then turn around and try to hit it? Maybe that's just a small airplane thing to do.
 

Lee D

Well-Known Member
A few months ago I saw one in the lower flight levels. Don't remember the exact altitude, but my altimeter was still at 29.92. I remember thinking that it was unusual to see one that high.
 

tlewis95

I drive planes
I have thermaled with a few balloons in gliders, up to 7 or 8 thousand, where the balloon kept going up, but I couldn't get any higher.

You see the same thing with corn stalks and wal-mart bags often.
 

DPApilot

GUYSH! GUYSH! GUYSH!
I have thermaled with a few balloons in gliders, up to 7 or 8 thousand, where the balloon kept going up, but I couldn't get any higher.

You see the same thing with corn stalks and wal-mart bags often.
i hit one (conrstalk) at 4.5 in D4 with "ham fried grits, and cheese" once haha
 

bdhill1979

Gone West
I slayed one at 10500

Saw it about half a second before hitting it. Never found any pieces of it so I don't think it got ingested.
 

CamYZ125

Well-Known Member
I've seen a couple in the low to mid 20's. It's definitely weird to see a balloon fly by at FL250.
 

CrippleHawk

Well-Known Member
My nephew asked me the other day: when kids let go of helium balloons at a county fair or wherever, do jet pilots ever fly past the balloons?

I'm a pilot who never ventures into the FLs, so I told him that I wasn't sure but that I thought that most little helium balloons get up to about seven or eight thousand feet before leaking helium and becoming too heavy. Personally, I've flown past kids' balloons at 2-8 thousand feet, but I can't recall seeing any around 9 or 10 thousand. Granted, they're tough to spot even at C172 speeds. On the other hand, some websites out there say that a typical latex balloon without a string can reach FL280 or so before they burst from the pressure differential.

So, my question is: what is the highest altitude at which you've flown past those little balloons?

I remember a long time ago when I was dispatching at PSA. 1 of our planes actually hit a helium baloon at around 10000 feet he was decending I think to JAX (Cannot remember what city but it was in FL.) All I remember was the ACARS message. Luckily there was very little damage. But I remember the nose (where the impact occured) was heavily inspected. And the pilots describing the impact to be "very Loud"
 

germb747

Well-Known Member
When I was in elementary school north of New Orleans, we used to release hundreds of helium balloons (one per student) with messages attached to them to see if somebody would find it and write back. That was back in the late 80's; I don't think they do it anymore--probably caused issues for MSY.
 

Teller1900

Well-Known Member
I've seen quite a few of them, usually around big cities. If memory serves I've always been in the 7-10k foot range. I heard a story from one of my CAs that, two winters ago, he almost killed a huge Mylar Santa balloon with a Beech.
 

beechpilot84

Well-Known Member
I was flying from central <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com
Washington</st1:State> down to <st1:State w:st="on"><ST1:pOregon </ST1:p</st1:State>one time. I saw what appeared to be a weather balloon way out in the distance. Another pilot (who was closer) saw and radioed into approach about the balloon. He said it appeared to be many balloons put together. I continued the flight and didn't think much about it.<O:p</O:p

<O:p</O:p

The next day I read in the paper about a guy that tied a lawn chair to a bunch of balloons and flew a few hundred miles. I think he was around 4 or 5000 feet. I guess he's done it before. Crazy huh?<O:p</O:p

If I had known it would have been worth it to go bust some circles around him and check it out, haha. At a safe distance of course :)
 
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