I am writing a script for a film where a hot air balloon is punctured and it falls to the ground. There are two teenagers in the balloon when it is in the air. What I would like to know is how fast the balloon would fall the ground. Would it glide down or would it drop? This might be a dumb question but it would really help me out in the story. If it helps at all, the balloon is supposed to crash land on top of a canopy tree. Would the balloon go down like an airplane and crash landed, nosediving towards the earth at a fast speed or would the rest of the balloon slows its velocity down?

I need the characters to survive the crash and the tear will be about 4 inches. Would it need to be longer for the balloon to start descending for a crash landing?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think the answer is that it depends completely on the size of the hole... pin prick, hardly noticeable. Massive rip? It could drop like a stone. Do you want the characters to survive? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ Some related information and answers: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/61246/… $\endgroup$
    – user12873
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 3:39
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall I want the characters to survive and the hole is about 4 inches in length. $\endgroup$
    – Katherine
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 3:42
  • $\begingroup$ @DigitalDracula Thanks! That really helps! $\endgroup$
    – Katherine
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 3:45
  • $\begingroup$ What causes the hole? Do you need to specify the actual size? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 3:48

2 Answers 2


Hot-air Balloons are already made with large holes in them. They are called vents. They can be located in the balloon’s top or sides. They tend to be much much larger than the 4-inch diameter you described in your question. But, their opening and closing are controlled by the pilots. Research the FAA Balloon Flying Handbook. It will give you much more insight than I can.


you can fly with large holes, the fabric is a rip stop nylon so long as the fabric is in good shape (you have 100 hour/annual inspections (in usa) like any other aircraft) the rip wont stop.

A large hole maybe a few feet long, and depending on where on the envelope you find this hole, it may require you to burn more often than you would normally, to compensate but it is not a case of falling to the ground at some computed rate.

Likewise the age of the fabric is more porous. so the same balloon new vs its last year of life before failing will involve burning more often or longer with the older balloon.

holes in balloons are the fiction of movies and tv shows.

Now if you during pre-flight see even a small hole then technically you are not to take off without a repair or whatever. But if you end up in the air or brush a tree, etc, then you deal with it.

One of my balloons I had to be careful with where the crown line was placed, if it was placed next to one of the turning vents it would keep the vent open which you dont find out about until you are in the air and the balloon starts to spin faster and faster. fortunately I had vents in both directions so it was a matter of extra or longer burns plus pulling the other vent to stop the spin every so often. lots of heat being lost, but was able to find a landing spot and learn the lesson for that brand/model to watch where the crown line was placed.


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