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Lighter than Air

The first public demonstrated flight of a hot air balloon took place on 4 June 1783, in Annonay, France. The 800 cubic metre balloon rose to a height of 1,000 meters, and traversed a distance of two kilometres. It was made of cloth, lined with paper, coated with alum as fireproofing, and its several segments held together by about 2,000 buttons.

The balloon was destroyed on landing by local peasants in southern France who were alarmed by the highly unusual occurrence of it flying over and landing in their rural fields.

Who invented the first hot air balloon?

French brothers, Joseph and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier invented the hot air balloon.

The Montgolfier brothers were paper mill owners and wrongly believed that smoke provided the lift for their light fabric balloon. They filled their balloon with smoke from a fire of straw, humidified wool and even of old shoes! The more dense the smoke, the better, they thought. Only later was it realized that it was the hot air provided by the fire that mattered, not the smoke.image: parts of a balloon

How Hot Air Balloons Work

Warmer air rises in cooler air. This is because hot air is lighter than cool air as it has less mass per unit of volume.

The actual balloon (referred to as the envelope) has to be so large as it takes such a large amount of heated air to lift it off the ground.

The envelope is often constructed from long nylon gores, reinforced with sewn-in webbing. The gores, which extend from the base of the envelope to the crown, are made up of a number of smaller panels.

The skirt or scoop is coated with special fire-resistant material, to keep the flame from igniting the balloon.

To keep the balloon rising, the air in the envelope needs to be reheated. Hot air balloons do this with a burner positioned under an open balloon envelope. As the air in the balloon cools, the pilot can reheat it by firing the burner.

Balloon Flight Timeline

19 September 1783: A Montgolfiere hot air balloon carrying a sheep, a rooster, and a duck flew for eight minutes in front of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the French court

15 October: Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis d'Arlandes were the first human passengers on a Montgolfiere balloon. The balloon was in free flight, meaning it was not tethered.

21 November 1783: The first manned balloon flight took place on , more than a century before the Wright Brothers took to the skies. It was piloted by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier (a physicist) and François Laurent, Marquis d'Arlandes. Their flight lasted 25 minutes, reached a height of 900 meters, and landed 10 kilometres away.

19 January1784: A huge Montgolfiere hot air balloon carried seven passengers to a height of 3,000 feet over the city of Lyons.

15 September 1784: A hydrogen balloon piloted by Vincent Lunardi took off from London watched by a crowd of 100,000. It flew for an incredible one hour and 40 minutes and traveled 13 miles.

7 January 1785: Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jefferies crossed the English Channel by gas balloon, carrying a letter – the world’s first airmail.

1900: US newspaperman Gordon Bennett sponsored the first balloon race. Sixteen gas balloons took off from Paris.

1981: First Balloon to Cross the Pacific. Launched from Nagashimi, Japan on 10 November 10 it landed 84 hours, 31 minutes later in Mendocino National Forest in California. A new distance record is set at 5,768 miles.

1984: First Solo Transatlantic Balloon Flight

1987: First Hot Air Balloon to Cross the Atlantic

1991: First Hot Air Balloon to Cross the Pacific

1988: The world hot air balloon altitude record of 65,000 feet was achieved by Per Lindstrand.

1999: Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard made the first successful circumnavigation of the world in a balloon,

2005: The world attitude record was broken in India by Dr Vijapat Singhania, he flew his 1.6 million cubic foot balloon to over 70,000 feet.

Also on this day....

World Environment Day

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