March | 2013 |

Archive for March 29, 2013

Bunch of Bees: Cutting Holes in a Brand New Balloon

There is something oddly satisfying about cutting huge 30″ circular holes in a Brand New Balloon.

Maybe it’s because when I built my own Hot Air Balloon, I was sooo careful not to make any mistakes (when snipping threads or by “catching” another part of the balloon under the part that I was sewing).

Maybe because it’s not my Balloon.

Maybe it’s because a 30″ hole is almost as big as a square yard.

Maybe it’s because the fabric for this balloon is worth so much money.

Hey Bill, why did you buy all that fabric if we weren’t going to use it –¬†by cutting it away? ūüėČ

So the Bunch of Bees Balloon is progressing well. All six bees are complete. Today¬†I helped out by cutting¬†twelve large 30″ holes (2 per Bee, do we call these Bee Holes?) in the main skin of the balloon and reinforced them with webbing all around the holes. These holes are¬†required to¬† inflate the bees on the outside of the balloon. This was done before sewing the bees on the ballon, because it’s way easier to do it before than to do it after. Not that it’s easy to do in the first place, as you have to sew a continuous piece of webbing all around a big hole and turn 4 full gores of fabric (1/3 of the complete balloon) 360 degrees around the sewing machine. Twelve times.

It’s done now. 12 large holes. In a Brand New Balloon. Here’s a picture of 2 of them:

Bee Holes

Bee Holes


Bunch of Bees: One Stitch at a Time

Last Saturday, it was my turn along with three friends from Ottawa Social to help out building the ‚ÄúBunch of Bees‚ÄĚ balloon (see the two previous posts on this page).

If you have read the earlier posts, you will already know that Bill Whelan is also a beekeeper and this balloon envelope and the to-be-built 2nd one in the shape of a queen bee are tributes to bees. What you don’t know is the serious reason behind their creation.

You see bees are in trouble these days. Five years ago, a mysterious condition called Colony Collapse Disorder decimated honey bee colonies in parts of the United States and Canada. Now recent field studies published in Science magazine led to conclusions that a dramatic loss of queens and interference with the bees’ ability to find their way back to the hive could be indirectly tied to systematic insecticides, a common way to protect crops. Canadian farmers and Agriculture Canada are working to find solutions. Bill and Sandra Rolfe are hoping their two bee-themed balloons will draw attention to the plight of the bees.

In the workshop this past Saturday, there was nothing exciting like seeing part of the balloon being inflated. Nonetheless, steady progress is still being made. My friends are ‚Äúnewbies‚ÄĚ to ballooning. Here‚Äôs a picture of them listening intently to Bill (at the sewing machine) and Sandra outlining the project. They were so enthralled with it all, I would not be surprised if a few join the NCBC.

Friends new to ballooning attentive to Sandra at right and Bill seated at sewing machine

Friends new to ballooning attentive to Sandra at right and Bill seated at sewing machine

My friends and I learned that the length of each gore is about 30 metres, consisting of 17 panels of fabric and one panel of Nomex (flame-resistant material placed at the mouth of the envelope closest to the burners), and the width of each gore is 5 metres. The balloon hive alone will weigh approximately 150 lbs. That doesn’t include the six (6) little bees to be attached to the beehive envelope. ¬†The little bees are a whopping 6 metres in length and have a circumference of 15 metres where they attach to the envelope. Bill wants to name each bee. By the time it is all done, 1600 metres of fabric will be used to build this balloon envelope as well as several kilometres of thread.

Saturday was a milestone day as we started to sew gores to each other! Imagine sliding 30 metres of fabric with a combined width of 10 metres into a sewing machine. It was quite the assembly line:

  • Under Sandra‚Äôs guidance, we 1st pinned the two gores together
  • She then sat at the single-needle sewing machine while Bill sat at the double-needle sewing machine
  • We helped slide the fabric from the cutting/pinning table to Sandra
  • One of us unpinned the fabric as it passed through the sewing machine
  • We then guided the fabric over to Bill’s machine while one of us sat across from him applying tension so that the fabric didn’t pucker
  • The gore is so long that it was being sewed at both machines at the same time!

By the end of the day we had sewed two gores together and had pinned the next two all ready to be sewed together first thing Sunday morning. As Bill sewed, he could see the mark on one of the gores where one of the small bees would be attached. That got him excited.

I don’t have any cool pictures for you. However rest assured that thanks to new friends & old, this project is progressing to completion one stitch at a time.

Bunch of Bees: Wings

The Bunch of Bees Balloon (see Bunch of Bees post) is coming along nicely, although the amount of work required to complete each of the 6 bees will probably be as much as building the entire balloon envelope (which is a beehive).

Many people have been helping. I was at the workshop recently, and have some progress to show.

The wings of the bees (12 of them) have been cut, assembled and sewn onto the bee bodies.

Here’s a picture of one half of one bee with the (blue) bee wing attached to it:

Half of one bee sewn together

Half of one bee sewn together

The half bees also have 2 legs attached to them, making 2 wings and 4 legs per bee. There will be a total of six bees.

Here’s a picture of one bee wing inflated. It’s over 12 feet tall:

Bee Wing Inflated

Bee Wing Inflated

A shot taken from inside the inflated bee wing:

Inside the bee's wing

Inside the bee’s wing

Update March 16: A last picture of the first fully inflated bee. Note that the back of the bee is compressed to get it to fill with cold air. On the finished balloon, the wings should be a little more vertical. Note that this indoor space is over 20 feet tall.

Inflated Bee

Inflated Bee

Bunch of Bees

Bill Whelan is in the process of building 2 Special Shape Balloons.

The first of the two is what has been called “Bunch of Bees”. Lots of names have been thrown around for what to call this Balloon, I think Bill said it was going to be called “Billy’s Bees” today…

Here’s the 3D render of the Balloon:

You see Bill is a beekeeper, and the Balloon is a tribute to bees. It’s basically a bee-hive with 6 bees. Except the bees are huge! And very complex. I think Bill said each bee has over 100 pieces. Here’s a map of the pieces for just 1/2 of one bees:

Bee Plan

Bee Plan

I (Alain Bard) have been helping when I can (along with other NCBC members)¬†to cut and sew this balloon. ¬†It’s quite the impressive undertaking. Here’s a picture of myself, Bill & Sandra sewing some of the bee parts together:

Alain, Bill & Sandra Sewing Bees

Alain, Bill & Sandra Sewing Bees

Just to put the size of the bees in perspective, here’s a little video of Sandra putting some air in one bee’s antennae (on top of the bees head):

Compare one person to one antennae, then extrapolate using the 3D render… The bees are HUGE!

This is going to be a really cool balloon. I can’t wait to put some air into it!


Here’s a picture of 1/2 of a bee’s head all sewn together:

1/2 of a bee's head

1/2 of a bee’s head



2013 Pilot Recurrency

On Sunday April 7, 2013 from 9:00AM to 12:30PM, the NCBC will be holding a Pilot Recurrency Seminar on this date.

Location is the Cyrville Community Centre in Ottawa East (Gloucester) located at:

4355 Halmont Drive (off of Palmerston which is off of Olgilvie)

We will be in the “Painting Room”.

Free parking is available at the back of the Community Centre.

It will be mainly geared towards Hot Air Balloon Pilots, but anyone is welcome, crew included.

NCBC membership is required, but if you wish, you can become a member or renew your membership on the day of the event

Apple Balloon

So the Ex-president (David Lopushinsky) is moving to BC.

He was one of the first people in the club to build an amateur-built balloon – here is a pic:


He has a new project in the works. It seems he is moving close to the Okanagan Valley in BC, so he decided he was going to build a Special Shape Balloon in the shape of an apple!

There is a poster on the garage at Bill Whelan’s shop which is a 3D render of the balloon, and I took a picture of it:

Apple Special Shape Balloon

Apple Special Shape Balloon

It seems the balloon fabric has all been cut already, and sewing is to start soon.

It’s going to be nice!

Club Members ‚Äď Do you have these past issues of The Crownlines?

I put out a call to gather as many old issues of The Crownlines as possible. These will be scanned and added to the website soon.

Through generous contributions of Diane Casault and Dave Johns, I’ve already assembled quite an impressive list. Thank you!

I am still missing some issues, the reason for this post. I’m going to keep a running tally of the Volumes and Numbers that are missing here.

Please, look through your old files and see if you can find these Crownlines for me.


Anything prior to 1996: Volumes 1-6. Anything from year 2003, 2006 and 2010

Volumes: 7.1, 7.3, 12.1, 12.3?, 13.1, 13.3? 14.1, 14.2, 15.1, 15.2, 16.1, 16.2?, 16.3?, 18.2?, 20.2?

My abbreviation here is Volume.Number, so Volume 7, Number 1 is shortened to 7.1.

A question mark indicates I’m not sure whether or not those issues actually exist.

There is also a bit of confusion with Volume numbering through the years, as years 2005 and 2006 were both using Volume 15, and again for 2009 and 2010 using Volume 19 for both years.

Thanks again!