Five unusual designs of hot air balloon

Hot air balloons are instantly recognisable for their size and shape, with their large, inverted cone structure standing out for many miles. While the overwhelming majority of them take this shape, there are occasions on which balloons take a wackier form, and an unusual design is used to promote a company, address a cause or simply elicit gasps of astonishment.

Quirky designs in usual shapes will usually take balloon manufacturers longer to create; not only because of the work that goes into the design, but also due to the physics of making sure it can fulfill its primarily function – to elevate the basket and its inhabitants into the air and keep them there. For this reason, their use is normally restricted to large ballooning events or high-profile promotional campaigns.

Here are five examples of lesser-seen balloon shapes:

1. Financial Times

The UK’s most recognisable money-minded newspaper decided to get airborne in 1988 when it created three balloons in the shape of a rolled-up copy of the Financial Times. It was far from strictly business though, as the FT balloons engaged in some eye-catching stunts, including soaring over Niagara Falls in 1991.

2. Churchill Dog

In 2004, sky-gazers in Oswestry, Shropshire were bound to have let out a hearty “ohhhh yes!” when a giant balloon in the shape of the bulldog from the Churchill Insurance adverts leapt into the air for its maiden voyage.

A creation of Lindstrand Hot Air Balloons, itself based in Oswestry, Churchill has since made appearances at the Bristol International Balloon Festival, and dwarfs many of its surrounding vessels in size. Complete with its pricked-up ears, golden collar and defiant facial expression, the advertising mascot is fairly unmistakable when seen in the skies.

3. Flying Scotsman

It might have borrowed its name from a train, but folks gathered round Chateau d’Oex in Switzerland were quite literally greeted by a Flying Scotsman. Cameron Balloons, which we mentioned in the article published yesterday, was the brains behind the kilted bagpiper balloon, which was over 150ft tall.

4. Football trophy

In the run-up to the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine, promoters launched a hot air balloon in the shape of the trophy itself to travel through both countries. It would act as a constant, aerial reminder that a summer of international football was on its way to the neighbouring nations.

Sadly, the achievements of the two host countries’ football sides were not so lofty, as both suffered a deflating First Round exit.

5. Darth Vader

Earlier this year, sci-fi fans in Canberra, Australia were given a treat when the huge masked head of Star Wars villain Darth Vader suddenly emerged over a building in the capital city. A local radio presenter took a picture of imposing head peering over its surroundings, which ended up doing the rounds on the Internet.

The inflatable Jedi noggin was used as an unorthodox part of Canberra’s 100th birthday celebration, but had been spotted in Europe as early as 2007.

These are just five examples of how the only limit to balloon design is the imagination, and many more can usually be seen at any ballooning event.

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