The year was 1783. In Annonay,
France, brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier (pronounced,
"Mon-goal-fee-ay"), papermakers by trade, built the
worlds first manned hot air balloon from paper and silk. A fire fueled
by straw, wool, and even old shoes created the lifting force. On
November 21st of that year, it was launched from the center of Paris
and flew for over twenty minutes, piloted by two noblemen, Pilatre de
Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlande. The birth of manned flight!
The pilots carried along a bottle
of champagne to enjoy on the flight, but instead of consuming it, they
used it to appease the peasant farmers whose field their flying
monster had landed in! The champagne convinced the farmers that they
were not demons (in fact they were Frenchmen!), and the ballooning
tradition of presenting landowners with champagne continues to this
day, although for slightly different reasons.
Soon after the first hot air
balloon flight, gas balloons filled with hydrogen and helium took to
the skies and gained popularity, being safer and more reliable than
flying with an open flame. It wasn't for a long time that hot air
balloons came back into interest.
launches on a flight into the history books... For him, just
another day at work!
Fast forward about 180 years - we
find ourselves at a remote airfield in Bruning, Nebraska at the height
of the Cold War. Raven Industries of Sioux Falls, SD had been
commissioned by the U.S. Office of Naval Research to create a flying
machine capable of carrying one man in sustained flight for three
hours. On October 22, 1960, chief pilot
and inventor Ed Yost made the first flight in a modern hot air balloon
- this time the balloon was made of strong ripstop nylon fabric and
powered by propane burners. Thus,
the rebirth of hot air!
Soon afterwards, the first sport
balloons were sold to individuals with a taste for adventure. The
sport of modern hot air ballooning exploded in popularity, and other
manufacturers sprang up to meet the demand for balloons. Today there
are eight or so manufacturers located in the United States. Click
here for some links to manufacturers websites.