|This article is about 'the hot air balloon'. You may be looking for 'the song'.|
- “Why, 'tis a floating basket with folk in it."
"Whatever will they dream up next?”
- ―Donald and Douglas, James and the Red Balloon, sixth season
The Hot Air Balloon, also known as the Red Balloon, came to Sodor primarily to carry holidaymakers. It is stationed at Dryaw airfield and carries passengers around, providing a rather different view of the Island. James is rather fond of the balloon.
In its first appearance, James and Thomas were jealous of the balloon because they thought it would steal their passengers until Sir Topham Hatt explained that it would attract more passengers to the Island. The balloon fell on top of James after it ran out of hot air. James was petrified, and let off a huge burst of steam, which invariably blew the balloon back up again.
Later on, Sir Topham Hatt and Lady Hatt used the balloon to transport to them to the grand opening of Rumblin Bridge station as Harold was having engine trouble. Unfortunately, the balloon's burner runs out of fuel and crashes into a tree. Skarloey saw the damaged balloon and offered to take the Hatts to the grand opening instead.
In its last appearance, Mr. Percival arranged for a special balloon ride for Pansy and Patrick's birthday. However, Duncan accidentally caused the balloon to crash into the weather-vane on Mr. Percival's house, tearing a hole through the material. Realising the error of his ways, Duncan collected a balloon repair man, who had little hope of repairing the balloon until Duncan suggested using a birthday flag to repair the damage.
- The music video, The Red Balloon refers to the balloon as a male character and implies that it is sentient.