Hot Air Balloons

Hot Air Balloons

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Armies in the late 19th century began to use hot-air and gas-filled balloons to enable them to observe enemy positions. The Royal Flying Corps used a large number of balloons on the Western Front. Cheaper to run than aircraft, balloons were winched to various heights by a ground crew. They were organised in groups so that cross-referenced observational readings was possible.

The development of fighter aircraft made life dangerous for balloon crews. As a result, crew members, unlike aircraft pilots, were permitted to use parachutes. However, they were not easy to destroy as normal bullets passed straight the fabric. Also aircraft had to be careful not to get too close as they were in danger of getting entangled in the wires or being shot down by anti-aircraft guns.

Increasing use of incendiary and explosive bullets by aircraft gunners reduced the survival chances of balloon crews. To counteract this, crews were equipped with a powered winch that helped them to bring the balloons down quickly while under attack.

The means for providing the artillery with aerial observation has proved to be insufficient. It has again been shown, as indeed had already been recognized under less difficult conditions, that it would be a great advantage to add a captive balloon and at least two observation aeroplanes to the war establishment of each Field Artillery Brigade (of two regiments).

The numerical superiority of the enemy's airmen and the fact that their machines were better, were made disagreeably apparent to us, particularly in their direction of the enemy's artillery fire and in bomb-dropping.

The number of our battle-planes was also too small. The enemy's airmen were often able to fire successfully on our troops with machine guns by descending to a height of a few hundred metres.

The First Hot Air Balloon

Hot-air balloons have fascinated people since the day they were invented – some are amazed by their ability to fly, others are terrified to try them, but all can agree that a balloon is one of the most unique flying machines ever invented.

The first hot air balloon satisfied the never-ending desire to see the world from above, allowing to observe panoramic views that no mountain or hill could offer.

That’s why, although today rising to the air has become a part of everyday life, hot air balloons still capture the imagination of people that want to see the world from above in a way that’s like no other.

The peaceful and slow-paced nature of flying a balloon means that you get to take in the spectacle and breathe in the fresh outdoor air, getting to appreciate the changing landscapes and beautiful sights as they pass below you.

But how did the first hot air balloon come to be?

Well, the only way to find out is to look at the history of hot air balloons. So, let’s explore the background of hot air balloons and learn when was the hot air balloon invented and who invented it.

The First (Manned) Hot Air Balloon Flight – Montgolfier Balloon

Even though the first plane only took off in the 20th century, people have been able to take to the skies well before that. To find out how, we must find out more about the hot air balloons’ background and learn about the pioneers who made it a reality.

So, who invented the hot air balloon?

Well, the first hot air balloon flight, at least one that was manned, took place in 1783, when brothers Joseph-Michael and Jacques-Ètienne Montgolfier launched their Montgolfier balloon to the skies in France, stunning a crowd of onlookers and proving that it was safe.

This was the culmination of their efforts to develop lighter-than-air devices that could stay in the air – the brothers found the air heating method to be a simple yet very effective way to propel upwards.

They performed test-flights using unmanned balloons, eventually working up to testing the mechanism with animals. After seeing consistent success, which was only dampened by the superstitious and untrusting villagers, they eventually put together a performance launch in Paris, where they had their two close friends board the balloon.

It rose to a height of about 500 feet and flew over the rooftops of Paris, landing in a vineyard after about 25 minutes in the air.

As you could expect, the feat was met with astonishment and became an instant sensation. The brothers Montgolfier received numerous honors and awards for their efforts and continued to refine their design.

Their efforts became the basis for what would become a centuries-old tradition of soaring through the air in a hot air balloon, observing the world from a vantage point that’s impossible to compare with any other.

Development and History of Modern Hot Air Balloons

Now that we’ve talked about how and when were hot air balloons invented, we can talk about how they became to look the way they do today.

After the development of the first hot air balloon in the 18th century, the technology quickly spread to different parts of the world from their birthplace in France, but the balloons that were used in those days were quite different from the ones that became popular in the 20th century and are still used to this day.

Today’s balloons use propane gas to propel themselves upward and provide a much safer and more efficient way to stay in the sky for longer while having more control over how the balloon behaves in the air.

This type of balloon was only invented in the 1960s by Ed Yost, who launched the first flight using the propane-based heating system on October 22nd of 1960 in Nebraska, USA. By 1963, Ed Yost was able to cross the English Channel using his innovative design.

Before his invention, balloonists had to burn various materials while flying, which was not only unsafe but made it much more difficult to make adjustments to the heat and control the balloon’s altitude.

Over time, Yost’s balloon propulsion model evolved so much that it became a legitimate mode of transportation, even for the longest trips imaginable.

In 1987, Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand took on the first ever Transatlantic flight in a hot air balloon, traveling an incredible 3,000 miles in just over 30 hours, with top speeds reaching up to 130 miles per hour, proving that balloon travel was not only feasible but quite efficient as well.

Today, balloons are once again rising in popularity – more people around the world are learning to appreciate the unique experience that taking the skies on a hot air balloon can provide, and thus you’d be hard-pressed to find a place that doesn’t have at least one hot air balloon enthusiast club.

It’s become a great recreational activity for couples, groups of friends, or even special occasions such as weddings, and some people are also taking part in competitive events such as balloon racing!

One thing is for sure, there’s no better time to experience the thrill of riding a hot air balloon than today – it’s now safer and more accessible than ever, so if you want to learn more about hot air balloon history, there probably isn’t a better way to do it than giving it a try for yourself.

To learn more and plan your own balloon ride, please call us at 800-253-2224 or visit our Napa Valley Vacations page and we’ll help you set up a day that you’ll never forget!

How It All Began

Although they still may look like a traditional flying object, the hot air balloon has flown a long way since it was first developed in the 18 th Century.

This blog will take you way back to the launch of ballooning and uncover how it has evolved to be the popular flying machine that it is today (kind of like a little history lesson, but fun!).

The history of hot air balloons goes way back to the Three Kingdoms era (220-280 AD) in China, where Kongming Lanterns were used for military signalling.

These were very similar to the type of Chinese paper lanterns used today.

The hot air balloon which has evolved into today’s hot air balloon is the design developed by the Montgolfier brothers.

Believe it or not, but the first passengers on board a hot air balloon flight were a sheep, duck and rooster!

This flight took place on the 19 th September 1783 and lasted for a whole 15 minutes.

The balloons during this period would have looked similar to the image below, how about that for a stunning design?!

The first flight with human passengers took place on October 19 th 1783, which was tethered, and had Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Jean-Baptiste Reveillon on board.

A month later, the first untethered flight took place on November 21 st 1783, where the passengers traveled over five miles in 25 minutes!

All of the ballooning action up to this point took place in France, however, 1784 saw the first hot air balloon flight take place in the UK by James Tytler who flew over Edinburgh.

Not long after, he was overshadowed when Vincenzo Lunardi, an Italian ‘dare devil’ took to a hot air balloon to fly in England (not forgetting his fellow passengers, a dog, cat and caged pigeon!).

Lunardi flew five times in total and became one of the first celebrities of hot air ballooning.

Towards the end of the 18 th Century, ballooning was becoming popular worldwide and 1793 saw the first balloon flight take place in America by Jean-Pierre Blanchard, who flew from Philadelphia.

The History Of Hot Air Balloons

The history of hot air balloons begins over 200 years ago when a French scientist famously sent up a balloon carrying a rather confused duck, sheep and cockerel.

Balloons have come a long way since then.

(You’ll be pleased to hear we don’t burn old boots or meat as fuel anymore, or expect you to share a basket with animals!)

And today ballooning is popular all over the world.

Pilots like Sir Richard Branson have achieved incredible feats in a quest to fly further, higher and for longer.

1783 - First Hot Air Balloon Flight

French scientist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier famously launched the first hot air balloon carrying a duck, a sheep and a cockerel.
The balloon is given lift by hot air but also has a compartment of ‘lighter- than-air’ gas – like helium or hydrogen – in the top of the balloon.
The flight lasts for 15 minutes.


Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes fly from Paris in a genuine ‘hot air’ balloon created out of paper-lined cloth by wealthy brothers and papermakers Jacques Étienne and Joseph Michel Montgolfier.


Scottish aviator James Tytler becomes the first Briton to fly a hot air balloon making a flight over Edinburgh.
However, he is overshadowed soon after by Italian diplomat and ‘dare devil’ Vincenzo Lunardi, who completes the first balloon flight in England.
Launching his hydrogen gas balloon in front of 200,000 spectators at London’s Artillery Ground, he flies with a dog, a cat and a caged pigeon for 24 miles into Hertfordshire.
He becomes famous and helps build the romance of ballooning still present today.


French aeronaut Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries successfully fly across the Channel.
They carry and deliver a letter – now that’s what you call ‘Air Mail’!


Jean-Pierre Blanchard completes the first balloon flight in North America, flying from Philadelphia to Gloucester County, New Jersey.


The Great Balloon of Nassau (85,000 cubic ft in size) is flown by UK balloon enthusiast Charles Green 800 km (500 mi) from London to Weilburg in Germany in 18 hours.
More than 160 years later, Virgin Balloon Flights flew his great, great nephew in our big red balloon over the Cotswolds.


Another first in the history of hot air balloons when they are used for military observation during Franco-Prussian War and a French Minister makes a dramatic James Bond-style escape from a besieged Paris by balloon.


Interest in ballooning as a sport grows thanks to the annual Gordon Bennett Balloon Trophy Races.
Founded by American journalist James Gordon Bennett when a group of hydrogen gas balloons fly from Paris, it first took place in 1906, pausing only for World War I I and continues today.


The Berliner hot air balloon flies 3,052 km (1,897) flies from Bitterfield in Germany to Perm in Russia.


Both sides use balloons for military observation during the war from 1914 to 1918.


Swiss physicist Auguste Piccard flies to the Stratosphere at 15,781 m (51,793 ft) in a metal cabin carried by a hydrogen gas balloon.
The next year he reached 16,507 m (54,156 ft)


Edward Yost invents a propane burner that changes ballooning from gas power to hot air.
A hot air balloon using the burner successfully flies in Nebraska, USA.


After several successful attempts to better Auguste Piccard’s record by others, Malcolm Ross and Victor Prather achieve an incredible 34,679m (113,775 ft).


The 1970s and 80s see the development of new synthetic materials and lighter burners, allowing ballooning to become a popular modern sport and marking another new age in the history of hot air balloons.


The first ballooning world championships are held in the United States.


American businessmen Ben Abruzzo, Max L. Anderson and Larry Newman fly a record 5,000 km (3,108 mi) from Maine, USA, to Miserey, France, in 137 hours and 6 minutes.


Sir Richard Branson and Per Linstrand successfully fly the Virgin Atlantic Flyer – the largest balloon ever at 2.3 million cubic feet – across the Atlantic.
The balloon travels 2,900 miles in a record breaking time of 33 hours and reaches speeds in excess of 130 miles per hour (209 k/ph).


Sir Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand cross the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Arctic Canada at the furthest distance of 6,700 miles.
Again, this breaks all existing records.
The balloon measures 2.6 million cubic feet and hits speeds of up to 245 miles per hour


Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones fly a helium/hot air balloon, the Breitling Orbiter 3, around the globe setting the longest ever flight covering 46,759 km (29,055 mi) in 19 days, 21 hours, and 55 minutes.


American millionaire Steve Fossett flies around the world in a helium/hot air balloon, Spirit of Freedom, on his sixth attempt.
He flies for 13 days, 34,000 km (22,100 mi).
It is the longest ever solo balloon flight.


Virgin Balloon Flights pilot Lindsay Muir – the UKs top female flyer – attempts to take her balloon to 34,000 ft, in Cuneo, Italy, to beat the record of 33,669 ft.
High winds and turbulence cause the attempt to fail but it receives major national coverage for Virgin and ballooning in general.


Vijaypat Singhania, an Indian businessman and Aviator, set the record by flying up to 21,290 m (69,852 ft) in a massive 160ft tall balloon with a pressurized cabin


Virgin Balloon Flights team up with rock band the Girls (including special guests such as Andrew ‘Mushroom’ Vowles form Massive Attack) and Future Music magazine to set the new Guinness World Records in a Virgin balloon piloted by Mark Simmons.
The song ‘What I did Today’ was performed and recorded 1,848 m (6,063 ft) above Wiltshire.


Virgin Balloon Flights team up with Virgin Radio and Sony BMG to host a gig by singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner in a balloon above the Swiss Alps.
The event is believed to be first ever show by a hit artist to be recorded in a hot air balloon for national radio and it receives widespread coverage


Virgin Balloon Flights pilot Mark Shemilt breaks a world record for endurance flying by keeping a special lightweight hopper balloon (AX-02 category) above the French Alps for seven hours and 32 minutes, beating previous best by more than half an hour.


Pilot Mark Shemilt does it again in February 2010 breaking the distance record in the same AX-02 category balloon flying 120 miles from Leicestershire to the Suffolk coast


A total of 329 balloons line up to launch at the Lorraine Mondial balloon fiesta in France setting the world record for the largest mass ascent of hot air balloons.
Meanwhile, Virgin Balloon Flights’ Chief Pilot and Director Kenneth Karlstrom beats 120 other top pilots to win the prestigious event’s target flying competition.


Russain adventurer (and priest!) Fedor Konyukhov broke the record for solo balloon flight around the world, completing his 33,000km journey in just under 11 days.

What is the History of Hot Air Balloons? (with pictures)

Using generated heat to capture rising air inside an envelope of material, the hot air balloon concept has fascinated scientists and speculators for centuries. Hot air balloons were one of the first methods of flight created by humans. Although their documented history is generally only begins in the 18th century, some evidence suggest that the balloons have been in the minds of humans for thousands of years.

China generally claims credit for being the first to make use of the technology. Heated air is lighter than cold air, so if there is a sufficient envelope to trap the air, the device it is attached to will rise. In the 3rd century, small unmanned versions of hot air balloons, called Kongming lanterns, were used as signaling devices during the constant military campaigns of the time. These lanterns later became traditional at some Chinese festivals.

Several balloonists and historians have postulated that the Nazca Indians of Peru could have used hot air balloon technology to aid them in building the famous Nazca line drawings. Using only technology available to the Nazcas of the 6th century, two balloonists built an enormous balloon capable of flight. While no evidence has been uncovered to suggest that the Nazca people did fly in balloons, the test demonstrated that it was certainly possible.

The history of modern ballooning begins in Portugal in 1783, when a priest demonstrated for the Portuguese court his small, working balloon model. A few months later, in September 1783, scientist Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier conducted the first large scale balloon test, launching a most likely surprised sheep, duck and rooster into flight before the balloon crashed to the ground. Also in that year, brothers named Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier displayed the first manned flight in Paris.

Ballooning quickly took off as a competitive sport among fans, with attempts being made to set distance and height records. In 1785, a manned balloon was flown across the English Channel, carrying Jean Pierre Blanchard and John Jefferies, one of the first American balloonists. Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier would die later that year in a similar attempt. On 7 January 1793, Blanchard also became the first to operate hot air balloons in America.

As a military tool, hot air balloons were used as spy vehicles during the French Revolution at the Battle of Fleurus. They also were employed during the American Civil War of the 19th century. Since the invention of winged aircraft, balloons have fallen out of military use, while retaining popularity as a hobbyist sport.

Following the work of Blanchard, modern balloonists have set several new records. In 1932, a scientist named Auguste Piccard flew a hot air balloon to a height of over 52,000 ft (15.8 km) in the first flight to reach the stratosphere. After many failed attempts, Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman became the first people to cross the Atlantic Ocean by balloon in 1978. In 1991, the longest balloon flight on record occurred piloted by Per Lindstrand and billionaire Richard Branson, and crossing 476,710 miles (7671.91 km).

Hot air balloons were the first successful attempt by humans to reach above our familiar surface. While the later aviation technology had little to do with the science behind hot air balloons, the dream of flight was given true possibility by their success. Balloon flights today are still accounted a wonder, with a consistent recurring image of beauty and serenity being a picture of hot air balloons scattered across a perfect sky.

Attack of Japan’s Killer WWII Balloons, 70 Years Ago

For Reverend Archie Mitchell, the spring of 1945 was a season of change. Not only were the minister and his wife, Elsie, expecting their first child, but he had also accepted a new post as pastor of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in the sleepy logging town of Bly, Oregon. Seeking to deepen their newly planted roots, the Mitchells invited five children from their Sunday school class𠅊ll between the ages of 11 and 14—on a picnic amid the bubbling brooks and ponderosa pines of nearby Gearhart Mountain on the beautiful spring day of May 5, 1945.

After lumbering up a one-lane gravel road, Mitchell parked his sedan and began to unload picnic baskets and fishing rods as Elsie, five months pregnant, and the children explored a knoll sloping down to a nearby creek. When 13-year-old Joan Patzke spied a strange white canvas on the forest floor, the curious girl summoned the rest of the group. “Look what we found,” Elsie called to her husband back at the car. “It looks like some kind of balloon.” The pastor glanced over at the group gathered in a tight circle around the oddity 50 yards away. As one of the children reached down to touch it, the minister began to shout a warning but never had a chance to finish.

Japanese fire balloon reinflated at Moffett Field, California, after it had been shot down by a Navy aircraft January 10, 1945.

A huge explosion rocked the placid mountainside. Elsie, the unborn baby and the five children were killed almost instantly by the blast. When a forest ranger in the vicinity came upon the scene, he found the victims radiating out like spokes around a smoldering crater and the 26-year-old minister beating his wife’s burning dress with his bare hands.

What U.S. military investigators sent to the blast scene immediately knew𠅋ut didn’t want anyone else to know—was that the strange contraption was a high-altitude balloon bomb launched by Japan to attack North America. After American aircraft bombed Tokyo and other Japanese cities during the Doolittle Raid of 1942, the Japanese military command wanted to retaliate in kind but its manned aircraft were incapable of reaching the West Coast of the United States. What the Japanese military lacked in technology, however, it made up for in geography.

Since the 13th century when a pair of cyclones foiled the fleets of Kublai Khan’s Mongol invaders, the Japanese had long believed that the gods had dispatched 𠇍ivine winds,” called “kamikaze,” to protect them. During World War II, the military thought the winds could save them once again since its scientists had discovered that a westerly river of air 30,000 feet high—known now as the “jet stream”𠅌ould transport hydrogen-filled balloons to North America in three to four days. For two years the military produced thousands of balloons with skins of lightweight, but durable, paper made from mulberry wood that was stitched together by conscripted schoolgirls oblivious to their sinister purposes. Using 40-foot-long ropes attached to the balloons, the military mounted incendiary devices and 30-pound high-explosive bombs rigged to drop over North America and spark massive forest fires that would instill panic and divert resources from the war effort.

Between November 1944 and April 1945, the Japanese military launched more than 9,000 of the pilotless weapons in an operation codenamed 𠇏u-Go.” Most of the balloons fell harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean, but more than 300 of the low-tech white orbs made the 5,000-mile crossing and were spotted fluttering in the skies over the western United States and Canada𠅏rom Holy Cross, Alaska, to Nogales, Arizona, and even as far east as Grand Rapids, Michigan. In March 1945, one balloon even hit a high-tension power line and caused a temporary blackout at the Hanford, Washington, plant that was producing plutonium that would be used in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki five months later. None of the balloons, however, had caused any injuries—until Mitchell’s church group came across the wreckage of one on Gearhart Mountain.

Monument to balloon bomb victims near Bly, Oregon. (Credit: U.S. Forest Service)

Citing the need to prevent panic and avoid giving the enemy location information that could allow them to hone their targeting, the U.S. military censored reports about the Japanese balloon bombs. Although many Bly locals knew the truth, they reluctantly followed military directives and adopted a code of silence about the tragedy as the media reported that the victims died in 𠇊n explosion of undetermined origin.” By the end of May 1945, however, the military decided in the interest of public safety to reveal the true cause of the explosion and warn Americans to beware of any strange white balloons they might encounter—information divulged a month too late for the victims in Oregon.

Ultimately, Fu-Go was a military failure. Few balloons reached their targets, and the jet stream winds were only powerful enough in wintertime when snowy and damp conditions in North American forests precluded the ignition of large fires. The only casualties they caused were the deaths of five innocent children and a pregnant woman, the first and only fatalities in the continental United States due to enemy action in World War II. The balloon bombs, however, presaged the future of warfare. In his book 𠇏u-Go: The Curious History of Japan’s Balloon Bomb Attack on America,” author Ross Coen called the weapon “the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile,” and the silent delivery of death from pilotless balloons has been referred to as World War II’s version of drone warfare.

Seventy years later, hundreds of potentially dangerous balloon bombs may still lurk in remote, rugged locations of the West. Last October, a pair of loggers in Lumby, British Columbia, found the remnants of a balloon bomb that was destroyed in a controlled explosion before it could result in a repeat of that tragic day 70 years ago.


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1785—First Across the English Channel: In the early days of ballooning, crossing the English Channel is considered the first step to long-distance ballooning. Two years after his historic first balloon ride, De Rozier attempts the crossing. De Rozier's experimental system consists of a hydrogen balloon and a hot air balloon tied together. Tragically, the craft explodes half an hour after takeoff, and de Rozier and his copilot are killed. This double balloon helium/hot air system, however, remains among the most successful designs for long-distance ballooning. This same year, French balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries become the first to fly across the English Channel.

1793—First Flight in North America: On January 9, Jean-Pierre Blanchard makes a 45-minute flight from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Gloucester County, New Jersey. George Washington is present to see the balloon launch.

1794 to 1945—First Use in Wars: From the U.S. Civil War through World Wars I and II, balloons come into play as tools for warfare, surveillance, transportation, and communication.

Auguste Piccard by his aluminum gondola, September 1930

1932—First Manned Flight to Stratosphere, and First Use of Pressurized Capsule: On August 18, Auguste Piccard, a Swiss scientist, and a companion, Max Cosyns, soar into the stratosphere in a balloon designed by Piccard that includes a pressurized aluminum gondola. The pair set a new altitude record of over 52,000 feet. Over the next few years, in the push to reach ever higher into the stratosphere, balloonists continue to break altitude records almost monthly.

1935—New Altitude Record Set, Remains For 20 Years: Explorer II , a helium gas balloon, sets the altitude record at 72,395 feet, or 13.7 miles, with two crew members on board, Captain Albert Stevens and Orvil Anderson. This flight serves as a milestone for aviation and paves the way for future space travel and the concept of manned flight in space. The highly publicized flight is also able to carry live radio broadcasts from the balloon.

Joe Kittinger leaping from an Air Force balloon at 102,800 feet

1960—Altitude Record and Highest Parachute Jump: On August 16, Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger jumps from a balloon at a breathtaking altitude of 102,800 feet (19.4 miles). Kittinger sets a world high-altitude parachute jump and freefall record that still stands today.

1961—Current Official Altitude Record Set: Commander Malcolm Ross and Lieutenant Commander Victor Prather of the U.S. Navy ascend to 113,739.9 feet in Lee Lewis Memorial, a polyethylene balloon. They land in the Gulf of Mexico where, with his pressure suit filling with water and unable to stay afloat, Prather drowns.

1978—First Atlantic Crossing: Double Eagle II, a helium balloon carrying Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman, becomes the first balloon to cross the Atlantic Ocean. A new duration record is set, with a flight time of 137 hours.

Double Eagle V launching from Nagashima, Japan in 1981 on its historic flight

1981—First Pacific Crossing: Thirteen-story-high Double Eagle V, piloted by Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman, Ron Clark, and Rocky Aoki of Japan, launches from Nagashimi, Japan on November 10 and lands 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 Flight: Joe Kittinger flies 3,535 miles from Caribou, Maine to Savona, Italy in his helium-filled balloon Rosie O'Grady's Balloon of Peace.

1987—First Atlantic Crossing By Hot Air Balloon: Per Lindstrand and Richard Branson fly a distance of 2,900 miles in 33 hours and set a new record for hot air ballooning. At the time, the balloon, with 2.3 million cubic feet of capacity, is the largest ever flown.

1988—Hot Air High Altitude Record: Per Lindstrand sets a solo world record of 65,000 feet for the greatest height ever reached by a hot air balloon.

1991—First Pacific Crossing By Hot Air Balloon: Per Lindstrand and Richard Branson become the first to traverse the Pacific by hot air balloon, flying from Japan to Arctic Canada in 46 hours. Reaching speeds in the jet stream of up to 245 mph in their Otsuka Flyer, they travel 6,700 miles, breaking the world distance record.

1992—Duration Record Set: Richard Abruzzo, son of previous record-breaker Ben Abruzzo, and Troy Bradley fly 144 hours, 16 minutes from Bangor, Maine to Morocco in a De Rozier balloon.

A later Steve Fossett balloon, photographed in January 1997

1995—First Solo Transpacific Flight: On February 14, Steve Fossett launches from Seoul, Korea and flies four long days to Mendham, Saskatchewan, Canada.

The gas–hot air hybrid balloon

Within two years, de Rozier began thinking about flying across the English Channel. To compensate for the shortcomings of the two types of balloons, he combined a hydrogen envelope with a small hot-air envelope below it. Hydrogen provided the basic lift, while the hot-air balloon system allowed him to control his flight without having to constantly drop ballast or release gas. His balloon, christened Tour de Calais, was brilliantly decorated with artwork and metallic gilding. According to modern investigations, the metallic coating caused a static discharge that ignited the varnished envelope some 30 minutes after its launch from Boulogne on June 15, 1785. De Rozier and his passenger, Pierre-Jules Romain, died within minutes of the ensuing crash, becoming the first balloon fatalities. Despite this tragic failure, de Rozier’s invention eventually succeeded in the ultimate transglobal balloon voyage two centuries later.

The three basic types of balloons (hot air, gas, and a gas–hot air hybrid) were, then, all invented at the very beginning. A fourth type, the superpressure balloon, which is kept at a constant volume, was proposed by French Gen. Jean Meusnier on December 3, 1783, but not successfully built until stronger materials became available in the 1950s. See below Superpressure balloons.

How it Started

From a small gathering of 13 balloons in 1972, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has grown to become the largest balloon event in the world. Held each year during the first week in October, the Balloon Fiesta now features about 600 balloons and 700 pilots.
The first gathering of 13 balloons in 1972 was held in the parking lot of Coronado Center Mall in Albuquerque. The following year, 13 countries took part in the "First World Hot Air Balloon Championship", the world's largest ballooning event, held at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds. By 1978 Albuquerque was playing host to 273 entries. The number of balloons steadily increased, with 600 in 1988 and 903 balloons in 1999. The organizers of the Balloon Fiesta registered more than 1000 balloons in the year 2000. Due to shrinking landing site availability, the number of hot air balloons is now limited.
In 1972 there were about 10,000 guests that viewed the first Balloon Fiesta. Hundreds of thousands of guests visit Balloon Fiesta each year, and hundreds of thousands more fans watch the balloons from outlying areas and on TV. New in 2017, fans around the world can now watch the event online via Balloon Fiesta Live!, a professionally-produced live stream, with expert commentary, of all the flying events. To accommodate the increases in balloons and guests, the Balloon Fiesta&rsquos home field has grown from a corner in a mall parking lot, to its present home, a permanent site that is more than 350 acres.
The Balloon Fiesta has not only grown in numbers of balloons and guests but in the number of unique events as well. In addition to the spectacular Mass Ascensions, the Balloon Fiesta has added the annual Balloon Glow, the Night Magic Glow&trade, and the Special Shape Rodeo&trade. These additions have grown to become guest favorites. To preserve the magic of these spectacular events, it is estimated that more than 25 million still photographs are taken of the Balloon Fiesta, repeatedly earning it the title &ldquothe world&rsquos most photographed event.&rdquo
Gas balloons became part of the Balloon Fiesta in 1981. In 1993, and again in 1999, AIBF hosted the annual Coupe de Gordon Bennett, the world's oldest and most prestigious gas balloon race that dates back to 1912. In 1994, The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta hosted the 8th World Gas Balloon Championship and in 1995, Balloon Fiesta launched America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race, a distance race that dates back to 1912.

The genesis of the 1st balloon Fiesta occurred while planning the KOB 50th Anniversary party the following spring, Susan Johnson, then promotional director for the station, was looking for a centerpiece of her own to celebrate this important birthday for the station. She found Sid Cutter flying the "club" balloon which had been purchased by the founders of the Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association (now the largest local balloon club in the world). The relationship between KOB and Sid Cutter was cemented and the idea of a balloon race began to take shape.
With very little time, but an enormous wealth of enthusiasm, Sid Cutter, Don, and Mike Draper and Tom Rutherford of KOB, set about putting together the largest balloon race in the world at that time, and invited 21 balloons to attend the event.
Last-minute cancellations and a miserable storm in the Midwest limited the participants to 13 balloons, but each and everyone was given red carpet treatment and put on a show for some 10,000-20,000 spectators that Albuquerque would never forget. The pilots came from Arizona, California, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Texas and they left with the impression that Albuquerque was a wonderful place to fly and that it had about the most hospitable bunch of people you'd ever want to find.

1972- 13 balloons gather at Coronado Center to celebrate KOB&rsquos 50th Anniversary
1973- Albuquerque hosts the First World Hot Air Balloon Championship at the Fairgrounds
1975- Event moves from February to October and from Fairgrounds to Simms Field
1976- AIBF Incorporates as a non-profit
1978- First KeyGrab competition
1979- Number of balloons tops 300
1980- First appearance of Parachutists
1981- First Gas Balloon race, Cutter Field is a new launch area
1984- Park N Ride begins (Coronado only)
1986- Fiesta Park (Alameda and Paseo del Norte) launch site with snow on the last day
1987- First Balloon Glow
1988- Last Fiesta Gas Balloon Race, number of hot air balloons-600
1989- First Special Shapes Rodeo
1992- Kodak becomes title sponsor at 21st Balloon Fiesta
1993- 37th Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race
1994-8th World Gas Balloon Championship
1995- First America&rsquos Challenge Gas Balloon Race
1996- 25th Balloon Fiesta, First Dawn Patrol Show, Sivage Thomas &ldquoHouse Grab&rdquo move to current Balloon Fiesta Park field
1997- First Flight of Nations and Night Magic Glow
1999- 43rd Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race
2000- 1019 balloons registered, a launch record
2001- NM Challenge event, last year for Kodak as title sponsor, launch field is completely grassed, President&rsquos compound RV lot becomes available to the public
2002- Admission raised to $5, parking is also $5
2003- Gondola Club created, Holiday Fiesta event
2004- First Fiesta Challenge, 2nd and last year for Holiday Fiesta
2005- 49th Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race, Albuquerque Aloft begins
2006- Posters produced by AIBF instead of Procreations, last Fiesta Challenge, Chain Saw Carving begins
2008- 52nd Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race
2009- Chaser&rsquos Club created, group tours operation comes in-house
2011- Founder Sid Cutter passes away
2014- First Music Fiesta after years of different artist performances, Sid Cutter Pilots&rsquo Pavilion opens
2017- Balloon Fiesta Live! premiers as a live stream of the entire event
2018- Drone footage part of Balloon Fiesta Live! and marketing program
2020- Entire Balloon Fiesta Postponed due to Public Health concerns

Hot Air Balloons - History of Hot Air Balloons

The first hot air balloons were flown by Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier. On June 4, 1783, Joseph and Étienne had a public demonstration of their invention in Annonay, France. They made a round balloon with an outer layer of burlap, and three inner layers of thin paper. The balloon was held together with 1800 buttons, and an outer net made of rope. They lit a fire underneath it, and filled the balloon with hot air. It flew for ten minutes. In that time, it rose as high as 5200-6600 feet (1600-2000 meters), and drifted 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) away.

Hot air balloons are known as lighter-than-air craft. They depend on the fact that hot air is less dense than cool air. This makes the air inside the balloon lighter than the air outside. Modern hot air balloons are made of nylon, and have a propane burner to heat the air in the balloon. Similar lighter-than-air craft, like blimps and Zeppelins, use hydrogen or helium in their balloons.

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