History of Balloon Flight
The first recorded balloon flight occurred in France in June 1783 when two brothers, Jacques Etienne and Joseph Michel Montgolfier, sent a large, smoked-filled bag 35 feet into the air. Three months later, a duck, a rooster, and a sheep became the first passengers in a balloon, since no one knew whether a human could survive the flight.
Finally on November 21, 1783, before a vast throng of onlookers that include the King and Queen of France, Marquis d’Arlandes and Pilâtre de Rozier piloted man’s first aerial voyage – more than a century before the Wright brothers historic flight at Kitty Hawk!
Ballooning became quite popular for over half a century in Europe. Ten days after the first manned hot air flight, a French physicist named J.A.C. Charles made the first manned flight in a hydrogen-filled balloon. Eighteenth century farmers, frightened by these strange objects descending from the heavens, attacked the balloon with pitchforks. Early aeronauts quickly learned to carry champagne aboard to present to the farmer upon landing. Thus was born the traditional champagne ceremony.
With the advent of powered aircraft, ballooning became a less practical mode of flight, practiced by only a few enthusiasts. The modern day sport of hot air ballooning evolved through research for the U.S. Navy in the 1960s and has enjoyed a remarkable comeback due to the development of a durable, inexpensive nylon for the envelope in combination with an improved and efficient propane burner system. Today, there are more than 5,000 balloon pilots in the U.S. alone.