History of Hot Air Ballooning

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 Aldrin

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, California

September 15-18, 1984 - First solo transatlantic balloon flight - Joseph W. Kittinger, Caribou, Maine to Cairo Montenotte, Italy

December 14-23, 1986 - First nonstop unrefueled global flight - "Voyager", Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager, Edwards AFB, California

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 distance traveled.

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 m)

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.


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