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Made in Michigan: Cameron Hot Air Balloons

7:29 PM, Apr 26, 2013   |    comments
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Paul Petrehn from Cameron Balloons explains what a tyical Hot-Air balloon costs.

DEXTER, Mich. (WZZM) -- If you see a hot-air balloon in the air, there's a good chance that is was made in Michigan.

There is a company near Ann Arbor that has been making the balloons for decades and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

In an industrial park there is small building with rainbow colors. Driving past you wouldn't not be blamed for not being able to guess that inside those walls is a manufacturing company making hot-air balloons.

Paul Petrehn works for Cameron Balloons. By day, he sells hot-air balloons and by night he flies them. "We are highly involved in the sale, the design, and the production of hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes," says Petrehn.

When Petrehn says, "all shapes and sizes," he means it. The company produces the balloons that we typically see with its round top pulled down toward a two man basket, but the company also makes balloons that look like cows, castles, and beer bottles. Seeing a giant bear head float high in the sky certainly is a strange sight, but companies often see these highly stylized balloons as effective marketing.

The process of making balloons goes back to the 1700's when hot air was the first way a human could fly. The baskets are hand-made.  "They take one person roughly two to three weeks to produce," says Petrehn.

Each balloon is cut from a fabric and sown together. The fabric is the same as parachutes, but contains a substance that holds in the heat.  Once a balloon has gone through all the indoor production, and inspection, it is ready for the next opportune time to take it outside and test it.

A balloon's propane tank and burner is capable of producing 18 million BTU's of heat. This flame heats up the air and inflates the fabric. "The gross lift of an average size balloon is 1800 pounds - that includes the weight of the fuel, the tank, the basket, and the burners and the weight of the envelope," says Petrehn.

An entry level balloon can be oobtained for about $35,000 that is big enough for a pilot plus one or two passengers. The fancy custom balloons like the one that looks like a Disney Castle can run into the hundreds of thousands.

If you are interested in learning more about buying or flying a balloon that's made in Michigan. Visit http://www.cameronballoons.com/

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