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History

Ballooning dates back to the late 1700’s and a pair of brothers named Montgolfier.   While the exact details of history detail from pilot to pilot, and book to book, the history roughly goes as follows.

Representation of the first flight with farm animalsThe Montgolfier brothers were part of a family of silk and paper manufacturers.   They noticed one day, as the servants were drying the clothes on lines over billowing fires, that the dresses would rise up from the heat being provided by the fire.   Intrigued by this, they decided to experiment by taking some of the silk and paper, and fashioning them into envelopes to capture the hot air from a fire.

The Montgolfier brothers were part of a family of silk and paper manufacturers.   They noticed one day as the servants were drying the clothes on lines over billowing fires that the dresses would rise up from the heat being provided by the fire.   Intrigued by this, they decided to experiment by taking some of the silk and paper, and fashioning them into envelopes to capture the hot air from a fire.

With the success of each experiment, they would build a larger envelop until they reached a size that could possibly carry passengers.   Afraid that there could be a disaster with the first flight, they decided to use animals.   They then fashioned a basket to attach to the envelop and loaded it with a goat, rooster, and duck.   The flight lasted only a couple minutes, but was successful.

The brothers decided it was time to press forward and carry people.   Because of the significance of such a flight, the brothers made sure to gain an audience with Kind Lois XVI in order to inform him of their intentions and to ask for the King’s support.   The King, pleased with the idea of being the first King to have such an event, agreed to pay for the materials.   He asked only that a picture of his wife be placed on the side of the balloon.   Thus the first corporate balloon was born.

Representation of the first manned balloonConcerned that there might still be a possibility of a hard crash, and not wanting to die and loose the information for this technology, the brothers began a search for the first person to take the flight.   They suggested that the King provide prisoners to fly the balloon.   Since the flight was promised to be a success, the King disagreed at the prospect of letting prisoners go free in a balloon funded by him, he instead pointed the brothers to a man named Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier.

Thus, on November 21st, 1783, the first manned balloon flight took place.   The crowd gathered for the launch as the balloon was tied in a courtyard between two posts as a fire below provided the hot air for the flight.   Once the balloon was buoyant, it was released for the flight.   Sandbags were tied to the basket and released throughout the flight to keep the balloon buoyant longer.   The balloon landed safely, thus leading the way to many more experiments and flights to follow.

Copyright 2008 Robert H. Cooper
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