Inflatable structure

Inflatable structure

Inflatable structures are large cold-air structures that people (usually children) can bounce on for recreation. They are often in the shape of a castle. The walls and floor are soft.

The name given to such structures varies. In the United States, East Coasters refer to them as a "moonbounce" while West Coasters stick to the generic name of "inflatable playground". They have been marketed with such names as Moon Bounce, Astrojump, Moonwalk, Bounce house, SpaceWalk, in the US, bouncy castle or inflatable castle in Ireland, the UK and parts of Australia, and as jumping castles in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. The term "moonwalk" has evolved as the generic term for enclosed inflatable trampolines in the US.

Inflatable strutures are rented for functions, school and church festivals and village fetes. Although they are aimed at children, adult castles can be hired in the UK. Because of liability concerns, moonwalks are rarely rented to adults in the US.

The growth in popularity of moonwalks has led to an inflatable amusement industry which includes inflatable slides, obstacle courses, games, and more. Inflatables are ideal for portable amusements because they are easy to transport and store.


The inflatable structure was designed in 1959 by John Scurlock who was experimenting with inflatable covers for tennis courts when he noticed his employees enjoyed jumping on the covers. [ Spacewalk: About Us - How We Got Started ] ] He started the Space Walk company to market them for children and called them Space Walks. He started out with a large air mattress and in 1967 added walls.

Inflatable structures were also designed by university students in England around 1961 for a fundraising event. [ Welcome to Bounce Time - serving Northamptonshire and the surrounding area ] ]


The surfaces are typically composed of thick, strong PVC or vinyl and nylon, and the castle is inflated using an electric or petrol-powered blower. The principle is one of constant leakage, meaning small punctures are not a problem - a medium-size "bouncy castle" requires a fan with a mechanical output of about two horsepower (consuming around 2 kW electrical power, allowing for the efficiency of the motor).

UK and Australian bouncy castles have specifications calling for fully inflated walls on 3 sides with an open front and foam "crash mats" to catch children who may jump or fall out of the structure.

Modern moonwalks in the US are typically supported by inflatable columns and enclosed with netting. The netting allows for supervision as adults can see in from all sides. Only two states,

Cheaper inflatable structures are usually made of polyester rather than nylon PVC and do not use a blower, instead they are inflated with a pump similar to an airbed. They do not last as long and it is illegal in the UK and USA to hire these out.

Another type of home-use inflatable has evolved, with a blower pumping in air continuously. Pores in the seams and material allow air to escape as kids play, while the blower continues to inflate the unit. This category has emerged as a response to parents who wish to buy an inflatable for home-use.


In 2006 the most severe standards in the construction of an inflatable amusement were adopted nationally in Australia, forming Federal Standard AS3533.4. This was a landmark safety standard bringing the toughest design/construction/operation standards to the inflatable industry of Australia. In 2007 the European Union (EU) followed and introduced similar Federal standards throughout Europe called EN14960.

In the US, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, require inflatables to pass engineering and safety standards before allowing the equipment to be rented out.Fact|date=October 2008


Some inflatables are designed to allow games such as boxing rings, water football, penalty shootouts, basketball, and gladiator duels. Quad tracks are also popular and provide the perimeter for Quad bike racing.

Inflatable associations

To maintain the quality of inflatables, voluntary organisations exist for manufacturers, resellers and hirers.

United States

In the US, the Association of Inflatable Rental Company Operators (AIRCO) [] is the largest trade group for companies who rent inflatable amusements. Established in 2005, it evolved from a commercial forum on the Hullaballoo Sales website. A trade group was needed to bring the industry together, promoting safety and monitoring standards.

The Safe Inflatables Operators Training Organization (SIOTO) [] was developed to train operators of inflatable games. With other operators from the Moonwalk Forum [] , Matthew Mark created SIOTO in 2005.

United Kingdom

In the UK, the BIHA (British Inflatable Hirers Alliance) is a hirers organisation. Members agree a code of conduct for hirers, and anyone wanting to hire out a castle can check on their website if a hirer is a member. Manufacturers can become Associate Members.

PIPA [] is a voluntary manufacturer and reseller's organization, which has been endorsed by the government Health & Safety organisation. Despite government backing it is not compulsory for inflatables sold for hire purposes to be PIPA tested. Hirers buying inflatables can ask for them to be "PIPA Tagged". This means the inflatable structure has been made to PIPA safety guidelines and has passed a PIPA test. If it passes a tag is put onto the inflatable specifying PIPA compliance. Hirers can also have their existing inflatables PIPA tested. Once an inflatable has passed a test it can be verified on the PIPA website to prevent fraud.

Other organizations are the Performance Textiles Association, AIMODS (Association of Inflatables Manufacturers, Operators, Designers and Suppliers) and the Federation of Major Inflatable Manufacturers.


In Australia, the Australian Amusement Association (AAA) [] was formed in 1997 to bring a cohesion to the small amusement ride operators, with the majority of members being backyard inflatable hirers.

pecific events

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

A theatrical group named "The Strolling Theatricals" has started performing Shakespearian tragedies on bouncy castles at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Hamlet in 2006, Macbeth in 2007). The group went on to compete in the popular television show Britain's Got Talent and will perform Bouncy Castle Dracula at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008.


A giant inflatable set was made for a pending TV rollerskating show Rollerwars. This was used for the international world championships at the Birmingham NIA, England. The inflatable set is approximately convert|200|ft|m|abbr=on by 120 ft long.

Injury and death

Although very rare, some children have been injured or died as a result of inflatable structures. [ A collection of inflatable ride accident reports can be found at]

* In South Yorkshire a boy died in 2003 while using one. [ [ BBC NEWS | England | South Yorkshire | Bouncy castle death 'tragic accident' ] ]
* There have been numerous reports of the malicious deflation of bouncy castles whilst in use, notably the Horsington House Hotel incident which injured several people at a 21st birthday celebration. [ [ Horsington House] ]
* In another case 2 people were killed and 13 were injured when an inflatable structure took off at Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street, County Durham during powerful winds in 2006. [ [ BBC NEWS | England | Wear | Two killed as artwork 'lifts off' ] ]
* An 8 year old girl was killed and 15 people injured when a bouncy castle was caught in a strong wind and was lifted and thrown over 50 meters. [The Coroners report can be read at]
* A boy's parents sued a party organiser in 2005 when one boy somersaulted onto another causing brain damage. [cite web|first=Helen|last=Pibb|url=|title=Boy severely hurt on bouncy castle likely to get £1m payout|publisher=The Guardian|date=9 May, 2008|accessdate=2008-05-15]

* £1m award to boy with brain damage overturned. [cite web|first=Alexandra|last=Topping|url=|title=Parents win appeal over head injury on a bouncy castle|publisher=The Guardian|date=1 Aug, 2008|accessdate=2008-08-01]

Methods of decoration

The artwork on most inflatable structures is generally hand-painted. It is cheaper for an artist to paint inflatables than to buy a printing machine or pay for a professional printer to print the artwork for a small quantity of inflatables. Fact|date=June 2008

For those wishing to have inflatables professionally printed, rather than painted, two technologies exist. One is to use screenprinting and the other uses digital printing machines which can print onto nylon. Usually, if the printing method is used then white PVC must be used and a pattern or artwork printed onto this.

Digital printing allows photographic quality pictures, something which is either difficult or impossible with hand-painting. Hand-painting is more durable as the paints tend to last longer in water, rain, and handling than printouts. It is also better for "cartoon" style images, which is the norm on children's inflatables.

In popular culture

A moonbounce saves Homer's life in the episode Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind.

In a recorded crank call, Crank Yankers character Niles Standish calls a Moon Bounce rental shop making enquiries of a sexual nature.



The biggest bouncy castle ever made was in Canada by two inventors.Fact|date=October 2008 They started in 1994 and finished it in 1996. Although it has never been blown up it is believed to have 61 floors in a height of convert|157|ft|m|abbr=on and convert|400|ft|m|abbr=on wide. Some peopleWho|date=October 2008 have valued it at $200,000 but health and safety officials have deemed it too unsafe to be used. There are 20 obstacle courses and one giant slide which is believed to be over convert|100|ft|m|abbr=on high with two drops in the middle of it causing even more speculation it will be demolished. Other features include zip wires, ball pits, a main stairwell and balconys.


On July 6th 2006, seven volunteers from The Newman Holiday Trust broke the Guinness World Record for the longest time bouncing on a bouncy castle at Priory Woods School & Arts College, Middlesbrough.Fact|date=October 2008


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Inflatable castle — A bouncy castle An inflatable shaped like an elephant …   Wikipedia

  • Inflatable — An inflatable [citation last = Topham first = Sean authorlink = coauthors = title = Blow Up: Inflatable Art publisher = Prestel Verlag date= 2002 location = Muenchen url = doi = id = ] is an object that can be inflated with a gas, usually with… …   Wikipedia

  • Inflatable boat — An inflatable boat is a lightweight boat constructed with its sides and bow made of flexible tubes containing pressurised gas. For smaller boats, the floor and hull beneath it is often flexible. On boats longer than 3 metres/10 feet, the floor… …   Wikipedia

  • Inflatable buildings — An inflatable building is a structure constructed using two layers of membrane connected together typically using spars made from the same material. The cavity formed between the layers is pressurised with air producing a rigid structural element …   Wikipedia

  • inflatable — /in flay teuh beuhl/, adj. 1. capable of being inflated. 2. designed or built to be inflated before use. n. 3. an inflatable object, device, or structure, esp. a small rubber boat that is inflated with air. [1875 80; INFLATE + ABLE] * * * …   Universalium

  • inflatable — 1. adjective Able to be inflated or blown up. See Also: inflatability, inflation 2. noun a) A boat or dinghy that may be inflated when needed. b) Any other structure, artwork etc. that i …   Wiktionary

  • Rigid-hulled inflatable boat — A rigid inflatable boat (RIB) or rigid hulled inflatable boat, (RHIB) is a light weight but high performance and high capacity boat constructed with a solid, shaped hull and flexible tubes at the gunwale. The design is stable and seaworthy. The… …   Wikipedia

  • Leading edge inflatable kite — A leading edge inflatable kite or LEI is a single skin kite with inflatable bladders providing structure. It is useful as a power or traction kite. These kites are flown using 2, 4 or 5 control lines and a bar. (See also: kite control systems) A… …   Wikipedia

  • Cutting Edge Creations — inflatable structure created by Cutting Edge Creations Cutting Edge Creations (CEC) is an Eagan, Minnesota based inflatables company that sells inflatable structures, including bounce houses, slides, advertising inflatables, movie projection… …   Wikipedia

  • Physical Sciences — ▪ 2009 Introduction Scientists discovered a new family of superconducting materials and obtained unique images of individual hydrogen atoms and of a multiple exoplanet system. Europe completed the Large Hadron Collider, and China and India took… …   Universalium