The oldest and newest balloons of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

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10 July 2017

  • Europe’s first hot air balloon floats alongside the world’s first solar balloon ahead of Bristol’s International Balloon Fiesta.

Europe’s very first modern hot air balloon was inflated in Bristol this morning (10/7/17) to mark 50 years since its first flight.

To celebrate the anniversary, the Bristol Belle was tethered alongside its modern equivalent – the Bristol Energy solar balloon - the first in the world to take passengers on a flight powered by the sun.

We’re very proud to be championing this innovative balloon at this year’s Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. It took its maiden voyage in 2015 as part of the UK’s first European Green Capital, and is an eye- catching, yet simple demonstration of the power of the sun and sheer human tenacity.

But how on earth did Cameron Balloons create a balloon that can fly by sunshine?

It’s actually a case of simple science. The black and silver balloon is made of lightweight polyurethane coated nylon. The black side attracts heat from the sun, heating both its skin and the air inside of the balloon.

The silver side acts as an insulator, preventing that heat from escaping, creating a mass of trapped hot air inside. This is what makes the balloon rise.

It’s called a ‘hybrid’ as it’s also fitted with propane burners, for when the sun disappears mid-flight (or a minion decides to eclipse it - but that would never happen…)

The balloon is a fantastic example of carbon neutral innovation, showing that there’s a real willingness to reinvent old technologies with more sustainable alternatives.

How is it controlled?

The balloon is fitted with turning vents, so the pilot can rotate it to keep the black side facing the sun. The more the balloon heats up, the higher it can fly. The horizontal speed of a balloon is determined purely by the strength of the wind – what a way to travel!


Bristol Energy will be at the fiesta all weekend: 10th – 13th August 2017, so come and say hello.

And fancy taking a ride in this unique aircraft yourself? We’re giving three lucky couples a once in a lifetime opportunity to fly in the solar balloon during the Fiesta. Enter today!


Find out more:


  • At Bristol Energy, solar power provides over 10% of the electricity customers get on our renewable ‘My Green Plus’ deal.