History of Ballooning

The first manned flight of a Hot Air Balloon was made on November 21, 1783 by Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent d’Arlandes in Paris, France. The Hot Air Balloon was made by the Montgolfier brothers Joseph Michel Montgolfier and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier.

The brothers decided to make a public demonstration of a balloon in order to establish their claim to its invention. They constructed a globe-shaped balloon of sackcloth with three thin layers of paper inside. The envelope could contain nearly 790 m³ (28,000 cubic feet) of air and weighed 225 kg (500 lb). It was constructed of four pieces (the dome and three lateral bands), and held together by 1,800 buttons. A reinforcing “fish net” of cord covered the outside of the envelope.

On 4 June 1783, they flew this craft as their first public demonstration at Annonay in front of a group of dignitaries from the Etats particulars. Its flight covered 2 km (1.2 mi), lasted 10 minutes, and had an estimated altitude of 1,600 – 2,000m (5,200 – 6,600 ft). Word of their success quickly reached Paris. Etienne went to the capital to make further demonstrations and to solidify the brothers’ claim to the invention of flight. Joseph, given his unkempt appearance and shyness, remained with the family. Etienne was the epitome of sober virtues … modest in clothes and manner]

A model of the Montgolfier brothers’ balloon at the London Science MuseumIn collaboration with the successful wallpaper manufacturer, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, Etienne constructed a 37,500-cubic-foot (1,060 m3) envelope of taffeta coated with a varnish of alum (which has fireproofing properties). The balloon was sky blue and decorated with golden flourishes, signs of the zodiac and suns. The design showed the intervention of Réveillon. The next test was on the 11th of September from the grounds of la Folie Titon, close to the house of Réveillon. There was some concern about the effects of flight into the upper atmosphere on living creatures. The king proposed to launch two criminals, but it is most likely that the inventors decided to send a sheep, duck, and rooster aloft first.

On 19 September 1783 the Aerostat Réveillon was flown with the first living beings in a basket attached to the balloon: a sheep, called Montauciel (Climb-to-the-sky), a duck and a rooster. The sheep was believed to have a reasonable approximation of human physiology. The duck was expected to be unharmed by being lifted aloft. It was included as a control for effects created by the aircraft rather than the altitude. The rooster was included as a further control as it was a bird that did not fly at high altitudes. This demonstration was performed before a crowd at the royal palace in Versailles, before King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette. The flight lasted approximately eight minutes, covered two miles (3 km), and obtained an altitude of about 1,500 feet (460 m). The craft landed safely after flying.

With the successful demonstration at Versailles, and again in collaboration with Réveillon, Etienne started construction of a 60,000-cubic-foot (1,700 m3) balloon for the purpose of making flights with humans. The balloon was about seventy-five feet tall and about fifty feet in diameter. It had rich decorative touches supplied by Reveillon. The color scheme was gold figures on a deep blue background. Fleur-de-lis and signs of the zodiac, suns with Louis XVI face in the center interlaced with the royal monogram in the central section graced the majestic machine. Red and blue drapery and golden eagles were at the base of the balloon. It is fitting that Etienne Montgolfier was the first human to lift off the earth, making at least one tethered flight from the yard of the Reveillon workshop in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. It was most likely on October 15th, 1783. A little while later on that same day, Pilatre de Rozier became the second to ascend into the air, to an altitude of 80 feet, which was the length of the tether.

On 21 November 1783 the first free flight by humans was made by Pilâtre, together with an army officer, the marquis d’Arlandes. The flight began from the grounds of the Château de la Muette (close to the Bois de Boulogne (park)) in the western outskirts of Paris. They flew aloft about 3,000 feet (910 m) above Paris for a distance of nine kilometres. After 25 minutes the machine landed between the windmills, outside the city ramparts, on the Butte-aux-Cailles. Enough fuel remained on board at the end of the flight to have allowed the balloon to fly four to five times as far. However, burning embers from the fire were scorching the balloon fabric and had to be daubed out with sponges. As it appeared it could destroy the balloon, Pilâtre took off his coat to stop the fire.

The early flights made a sensation. Numerous engravings commemorated the events. Chairs were designed with balloon backs, and mantel clocks were produced in enamel and gilt-bronze replicas set with a dial in the balloon.

World Altitude Record in Hot Air Balloon
Hot air balloons are able to fly to extremely high altitudes. On November 26, 2005, Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot air balloon flight, reaching 21,027 meters (68,986 feet). He took off from downtown Bombay, India, and landed 240 kilometers (149 miles) south in Panchale.

The previous record of 19,811 m (64,997 ft) had been set by Per Lindstrand on June 6, 1988 in Plano, Texas. Information source: Wikipedia

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