Special thanks to CargoLifter for all their assistance with this article.

If you actually need to get somewhere, a hot air balloon is a fairly impractical vehicle.You can't really steer it, and it only travels as fast as the wind blows. But if you simply want to enjoy the experience of flying, there's nothing quite like it. Many people describe flying in a hot air balloon as one of the most serene, enjoyable activities they've ever experienced.

Hot air balloons are also an ingenious application of basic scientific principles. In this edition of How Stuff Works, we'll see what makes these balloons rise up in the air, and we'll also find out how the balloon's design lets the pilot control altitude and vertical speed. You'll be amazed by the beautiful simplicity of these early flying machines!


A four-passenger CargoLifter hot air balloon