History of Ballooning
The Montgolfier brothers, born in Annonay, France, were inventors of the first practical balloon. Joseph-Michael, the elder, was born on August 26, 1740; Jacques-Ètienne was born on January 6, 1745. They were 2 of the 16 children of Pierre Montgolfier, whose prosperous paper factories in the small town of Vidalon, near Annonay, in southern France, helped support their balloon experiments.
In 1782, the brothers discovered that heated air from a fire directed into a paper or fabric bag made the bag rise. They demonstrated this discovery in 1782 when a balloon they made rose into the air about 3,000 feet (1,000 metres), remained aloft some 10 minutes, and then settled to the ground more than a mile and a half from where it rose. In early June of 1783, in the town of Annonay, they gave a public exhibition of their discovery with a balloon made of silk and lined with paper to trap the gas. It rose to an altitude of about 6,000 feet (1,830 metres), travelled more than 1 mile (1.6 kilometres), and stayed aloft for 10 minutes. On September 19, in a demonstration before Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, they put a sheep, duck, and rooster aboard a balloon to determine the effect of altitude on living creatures. The balloon floated for about 8 minutes and landed safely about 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) from the launch site. The brothers went on to many more experimental flights.
The First Manned Flight
On 21st November, with a balloon made by the French Montgolfier brothers, Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis D’Arlandes kept themselves up over Paris for twenty-five minutes by energetically stoking their brazier with straw and twigs to keep the balloon hot.
The hot air balloon may have been the first aircraft, but the gas balloon was not far behind. On the 1 December 1783 Professor Charles demonstrated the first hydrogen balloon in an equally successful ascent from Paris.
Two years later in 1785 a French balloonist, Jean Pierre Blanchard, and his American co pilot, John Jefferies, became the first to fly across the English Channel. In these early days of ballooning, the English Channel was considered the first step to long distance ballooning so this was a large benchmark in ballooning history.
For almost two centuries hot air balloons were virtually ignored until the late 1950’s when a balloon was built as part on the United Sates Government research programme. This balloon was made of man-made fibres and was filled with air heated by a propane flame. The modern hot air balloon was born.
Since that first balloon, which showed that a practical balloon with a operating cost of about one per cent of that of a gas balloon could be made, hot air ballooning has expanded all over the world. It has attracted thousands of adherents and is still one of the fastest growing air sports.