The first recorded balloon flight occurred in France in June
1783 when two brothers, Jacgues Etienne and Joseph Michel
Montgolfier, sent a large, smoke-filled bag 35 feet into the
air. Threee months later, a duck, rooster and sheep became the
first passengers in a balloon, since no one knew whether a human
could survive the flight.
Finally on November 21, 1783, before a vast throng of onlookers that included the King and Queen of France, Marquis d'Arlandes and Pilatre de Rozier piloted man's first aerial voyage more than a century before the Wright brothers' historic
flight at Kitty Hawk! Ten days after the first manned hot air flight, a French physicist named J.A.C. Charles made the first
manned flight in a hydrogen-filled balloon called Charlire. Charles exhibited more technical competence and design knowledge than that of his rivals.
Eighteenth century farmers, frightened by these strange
objects descending from the heaven attacked the balloon with
pitch forks. Early aeronauts quickly learned to carry champagne
aboard to present to the farmer upon landing. Thus was born the
traditional champagne ceremony. With the advent of powered
aircraft, ballooning became a less practical mode of flight,
practiced by only a few enthusiasts.
With the advent of a rubberized silk which would contain
hydrogen, by the Academic Francaise, the contest was on between
the two types of balloon, hot-air (smoke) and gas (hydrogen). The
drawbacks to hot-air were quickly apparent. Balloons had to be
enormous to provide reasonable lift, up to three times the volume
of hydrogen. Sparks from the fire made them dangerous and the
fuels used created foul smelling smoke. Soon the hot-air balloon
went out of favor.
In the early 1950's a young American named Ed Yost was in
Europe, working for the General Mills company on high altitude
gas balloons for scientific and espionage projects. During the
course of his experiments Yost attached a plumber's blowtorch to
an 8,000 cu ft polythene envelope and, in 1953, he flew the first
of a new generation of hot-air balloons.
Yost applied to the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for a grant
to further his studies, he was granted $47,000. In 1956 Yost and
three partners formed Raven Industries to construct high altitude
balloons and to continue research into man-carrying hot-air
balloons. Raven obtained a further grant from the ONR for the
development of a two-man balloon, which the Navy intended to use
as a trainer for airship pilots.
On October 10, 1960, the official birth date of the modern
hot-air balloon, the first man-carrying free flight took place at
Bruning, Nebraska, in the Raven prototype 'modern' hot-air
balloon. The 30,000 cu ft envelope was constructed of a
polyurethane coated nylon and the burner was propane powered.
By 1963 the growing sport was able to sustain the first US
national championships, and by the mid 1960's there were three
dominant manufacturers. Today there are over 5,000 balloon pilots
in the U.S. alone.
Milestones of Manned Flight
October 15, 1783 - First manned balloon flight - Pilatre de
Rozier, Versailles, France
December 17, 1903 - First heavier than air airplane flight
-Orville Wright, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
June 14-15, 1919 - First nonstop transatlantic flight - Alcock
and Brown, St. John's Newfoundland to Clifden, Ireland
May 20-21, 1927 - First solo aircraft transatlantic flight - Charles
Lindbergh, New York to Paris, France
October 3-5, 1931 - First transpacific aircraft flight - Pangborn and
Herndon, Sabishiro Beach, Japan to Wenatchee, Washington
October 22, 1960 - Ed Yost, in Raven Industries®´ first Vulcoon®, flew to 9300 feet in a half-hour flight in this forerunner of all modern hot-air balloons.
April 12, 1961 - First space flight - Yuri Garagin, Russia
July 20, 1969 - First moon landing - Neil Armstrong and Buzz
April, 1972 - "KOB Birthday Bash & Balloon Race" was the first balloon race in Albuquerque, New Mexico started by Sid Cutter, known as the Founder of Hot Air Ballooning in Albuquerque. This race started Albuquerque on its way to becoming the "Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World." Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Inc. held it's first official event in 1974.
August 12-17, 1978 - First transatlantic balloon flight -
Maxie Anderson, Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman, Presque Isle, Maine to
Miserey, France. They flew the distance in 137 hours, covering 3,120 miles in their balloon, Double Eagle II
1980 - Julian Nott builds the world's second pressurized cabin for a hot air balloon, designed with Roger Munk, and pilots it to 55,134 feet from Longmont, Colorado
October 9-12, 1981 - First nonstop transcontinental balloon
flight - Fred Gorell and John Shucraft
November 9-12 1981 - First transpacific balloon flight
-Newman, Abruzzo, Aoki and Clark, Nagashima, Japan to Covello,
September 15-18, 1984 - First solo transatlantic balloon
flight - Joseph W. Kittinger, Caribou, Maine to Cairo Montenotte,
December 14-23, 1986 - First nonstop unrefueled global flight
- "Voyager", Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager, Edwards AFB,
September 18, 1994 - The Energizer Bunny® Hot Hare Balloon is the largest hot air balloon in the world standing 15 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty at 180,000 cu. ft., 166 ft. tall. Energizer
February 14-17, 1995 - First solo transpacific balloon flight
- Steve Fossett, Seoul, Korea to Mendham, Saskatchewan, Canada
January 20, 1997, 07:40 GMT - Steve Fossett and his balloon
ended the historic flight by landing safely at Pirthiganj, India
(26.08n latitude, 81.57e longitude) at 07:40 GMT. The descent was
trouble free and Steve experienced a safe landing . This ends a
journey which broke the absolute duration record (last held by
Richard Abruzzo and Troy Bradley) with a time of 6 days, 2 hours
and 54 minutes. Steve also broke his own world record for
March 20, 1999 - Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones became the
first aviators to circle the globe nonstop in a hot air balloon.
It took them 19 days, 1 hour, and 49 minutes to travel the 29,055
miles (42,810 kilometers). They launched from Chateau d'Oex in
the Swiss Alps on March 1 and landed in southwestern Sahara, near
the isolated town of Mut, Egypt. The journey took them over
southern Europe, North Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean,
Central America and the Atlantic Ocean.
June, 2000 - David Hempleman-Adams became the first person to solo pilot a balloon to the North Pole. He set a number of ballooning records on this flight, including distance record for the Arctic at 1,400 kilometers to the North Pole ring and 2,451 kilometers total, first balloonist to fly solo to the North Pole, and first balloonist to fly solo across the Arctic Ocean
July 4, 2002 - Steve Fossett's successful 14 day, 19 hour and 51 minute first solo around the world balloon flight came to a stunning finish at dawn as the Bud Light Spirit of Freedom (180' high Roziere-type constant temperature helium) landed smoothly near Lake Yamma Yamma (dry lake) in the east Australian 0utback (Queensland, Australia) 725 miles northwest of Sydney. He traveled 20,602 miles (32,963 km) since his launch from Northam, Western Australia, on June 19.
September, 2003 - David Hempleman-Adams became the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an open wicker-basket Roziere balloon.
Febuary, 2005 - Gregory J. Winker (USA) set new distance record (920.97 km) in size category: AM-03 (Mixed balloons : 400 to 600 m³)
November, 2005 - Vijaypat Singhania (launching from Mumbai (Bombay) India) claimed a new world record for the highest flight in a hot air balloon, 69,852 feet.
World Wide Web Balloon Pages Links to other ballooning web sites.