It is fascinating to learn about the history of ballooning. It includes Benjamin Franklin, two french paper-makers, and a few barnyard animals. The secret to aerial navigation was discovered in 1782 by Stephen (Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier) and Joseph Montgolfier. This experiment resulted from many failed attempts over more than 20 centuries. The smoke from a fire hovered above Parisian rooftops for hours before it reached the clouds. This inspiration led to an invention that has forever changed the world.
First hot air balloon flight test
Stephen, the younger brother, realized that if a paper bag were made from light paper and filled with smoke or ash from their fire, it would naturally rise towards the sky. The Montgolfier brothers constructed a paper bag with a 40-foot capacity in Avignon in November 1782. They used it as a test bed.
They made a paper bag with an opening at its bottom. When they lit a fire under it, the internal temperature rose, which caused it to grow. Their first balloon experiment reached a height of 75 feet. The Montgolfier brothers were inspired by their success and decided to do their next experiment on an even larger scale. The new envelope had a capacity of 600 cubic feet and a spherical form. The envelope’s shape was based on a small, short-necked glass bottle used in chemistry; when the heat was applied to it, the strings of the balloon burst and rose to 600 feet above the ground.
The Montgolfiers, who were Annonay natives, were the sons and daughters of a wealthy paper producer. It is clear that both were interested in mathematics and were familiar with the nature of the substance that caused their balloons to rise. The ascending power of their balloons was due to a unique type of gas, which they believed was produced by the combustion of wool and chopped straw. However, this does not diminish the merits of their discovery.
Montgolfier brothers were inspired by the success of more giant hot-air balloons to create a larger one. The hot air balloon measured 35 feet in diameter. After being filled with air, the balloon reached 1000 feet in height and traveled 3/4 mile. The Montgolfiers were ready to display their invention to the world. The paper balloon was spherical and could lift 500 lbs. The hot air balloon was freed from its tether ropes, soaring to an impressive 6000 feet above France.
Stephen Montgolfier arrived shortly after the Annonay experiment was completed. He was invited immediately to the royal academy of science, where he requested that his experiment be repeated at their expense. He accepted the offer and quickly constructed an elliptical balloon measuring 72 feet in height and 41 feet in width. It weighed in at 1000 lbs when it was completed. It was decorated with exquisite and appropriate designs and elegantly finished. It raised eight men in a preliminary experiment.
First Hot Air Balloon Ride
The 12th of September 1783 was the date for the first balloon flight demonstration before members of the Royal Academy. They ascended with a weight of 400-500lbs. High winds and a strong gust of wind damaged the balloon. The exact dimensions were used to construct a new hot air balloon. King Louis XVI and the Versailles royal family members inflated the new balloon. As the first hot-air ballooning passengers, the French king suggested that a sheep, duck, and a rooster be put in the basket. The balloon was lifted into the air at 1500 feet. They safely landed 10,000 feet away from the point of ascent. The official first balloon flight was a great success.
First Manned Flight
This was the first time that any living creature had ever been able to ascend with a balloon envelope. A second balloon envelope was constructed, measuring 74 feet in height and 48 feet in circumference. M. Pllatre de Rozier offered to take an aerial flight with this balloon. At the bottom, there was a 15-foot diameter opening. A gallery of wickerwork was placed around the door and attached to it. It was three feet wide and three feet high. The fence was three feet tall. Port holes were also installed around the balloon’s lower circumference and directly above the platform.
The balloon’s lower aperture was suspended from chains to an iron brasier that was intended for use as an onboard heat source (fireplace). The aeronaut could inject fuel through the portholes, if necessary, quickly. Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier, M. Giroud de Villette, and this balloon were fastened using ropes that measured the same length.
The marquis de Arlandes accompanied him on the 21st of November. They decided to fly together. The balloon was inflated, and fuel was provided to the gallery. M. Pilatre de Rozier and the marquis de Arlandes stood on opposite sides.
The balloon was let go of its moorings at a signal and allowed to fly free. The balloon rose majestically to 3000 feet amid the cheers and applause from a happy crowd. They stayed in the air for 25 minutes and experienced various winds and temperature changes. The balloon set itself ablaze several times during the hot air ballooning adventure. This caused the marquis to become very agitated and want to descend precipitously. M. Pilatre de Rozier had a bucket of water and a sponge in an emergency. The brasier controlled the fire to regulate their altitude, allowing them to raise and lower their altitude multiple times. After crossing a large portion of Paris, they finally reached their destination 5 miles away.
“Today, 21 November 1783, the Chateau de La Muette hosted an experiment using the aerostatic machine M. de Montgolfier. Partly cloudy; wind from the northwest. Eight minutes after sunset, a mortar indicated that the device was almost complete. It was ready to go in eight minutes, despite the wind. The marquis d’Arlandes and M. Pilatre de Rozier were already in the car. At first, I wanted to keep the machine with the ropes for a while to see how heavy it could bear and to make sure everything was in order. The wind stopped it from rising vertically and directed it towards one of the garden walls. It made many rents in the roped, with one measuring six feet. It was again brought down and was fixed in just two hours. It was refilled and set off again at fifty-four minutes past one carrying the same people. The ship rose majestically and reached a height of 270 feet. There was a mixed feeling of admiration and fear that everyone could not help but feel. The voyagers became indistinguishable soon. But the machine hovering above the horizon and displaying the most beautiful form rose at least 3000ft high and was visible throughout the day. It crossed the Seine below the barrier de La Conference, valides and was visible from all parts of Paris. They were satisfied with their experience and wanted to avoid traveling further. However, they agreed to descend, but the wind was dragging them onto the Rue de Seve houses, Fab. St. Germin kept their mind clear and continued their journey through the air until they reached Paris. They continued their descent on the New Boulevard opposite the Croulebarbe mill, feeling nothing but comfort. They could have traveled three times as far as the original trip, 5000 toises. It took them twenty to twenty-five seconds. It was 75 feet tall and fifty-six feet wide. It contained 60,000 cubic yards and weighed between 1600 and 1700 pounds.
Although the Chinese experimented with an aerial lantern thousands of years ago, there is no evidence that an individual ever ascent. Montgolfier balloons were the first hot-air balloons to make an aerial flight with verified proof of human pilots. The Montgolfier Balloon is the most successful and practical attempt at navigating in the air.
The Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of Paris awarded Stephen Montgolfier a medal for his most significant discovery of the period at its next meeting. The Montgolfiers didn’t understand the nature or cause of the material that allowed their balloons to ascend. The balloons’ ascent was not due to an unusual gas but a rare state of the air. This peculiar gas involved the burning of straw and wool. These were called “certain materials” and fooled some members of the Royal Academy into thinking that they had discovered a lighter-than-air gas.
Jacques Alexandre Cesar Charles, Nicholas Louis Robert, and Nicholas Louis Robert launched a balloon with hydrogen gas as lift and sand as ballast on December 1, 1783. This was just ten days after the first human-crewed balloon flight. The hydrogen balloon traveled 25 miles, and the pilots could stay in the air for 2.5 hours. Henry Cavendish, who combined iron filings with sulphuric acids in 1776, developed hydrogen.
Pilatre de Rozier and Romain tried to cross the English Channel using a balloon that used hydrogen and heat in 1785. The volatile mixture of hydrogen and fire, which is highly flammable, caused the deaths of both men just thirty minutes after liftoff. Jean Pierre Blanchard flew successfully across the English Channel using hydrogen in 1874.
Scientists and war made ballooning possible. The french used gas balloons as lookouts and were sometimes called the “spies of the skies.” These balloons were connected to 500ft tether lines and allowed soldiers to record the locations and numbers of their enemies.
First American Balloon Flight
January 9th, 1793, was America’s first human-crewed balloon flight. Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries piloted the balloon powered by hydrogen gas. Blanchard had just crossed the English Channel one year prior! The “first free flight” was attended by President George Washington, who watched from the ground. The French military officer, a French soldier, climbed 5800 feet above Philadelphia Prison Yard and safely landed his gas balloon on Gloucester County soil close to New Jersey’s coast.
Civil War and Balloons
The United States only commissioned balloon pilots or pilots after the civil war. Thadeus Lowe, an owner of a commercial balloon ride business, saw the clouds move quickly and thought that if he made a big enough balloon, he could fly from America to England. He didn’t have enough funds to pay for the expedition, so he talked with President Abraham Lincoln about how his balloons could aid the North in the Civil War. Thadeus Lowe inflated his balloon on the White House lawn and connected a 500-foot-long tether line to the White House press office. Thadeus took his balloon up to 500 feet and sent the first telegram out of the air. Lincoln declared, “We will win the war with balloons.” The ten balloon corps (or balloon corps) were commissioned balloons that ascended more than 3000 times during the civil war. Union General Fitz John Porter experienced an unanticipated experience in a balloon in 1862. He flew above enemy lines after the tether lines gave way. The winds changed, and the balloon landed right where it took off. It was quite an adventure!
Japanese Fugo Balloons – Used in WWII
The Japanese created bomb-carrying balloons to attack the United States and cross the Pacific during World WarII. Many were called Fugo (windship) balloons. A few reached the USA, some caused occasional fires, and one killed six people in Eastern Oregon in 1945.
Fugo balloons could reach up to 30 feet in size and were filled with hydrogen. They were filled with hydrogen and carried high explosives and incendiary bombs. The Japanese released the balloons at sites in Japan and took them across the Pacific utilizing the Jet Stream.
The balloons were intended to light fires in Pacific Northwest forests and to injure or kill people. Some bomblets carried on the balloons burst upon impact, while others were designed to light fires. Between November 1944 and April 1945, 9,300 Fugo balloons were launched.
It is believed that only a handful of the 9,300 balloons launched reached the United States. Most balloons were launched from remote locations, and most bombs didn’t explode. The balloons caused a few dozen fires, and six people were killed when a bomb exploded in Bly, Oregon, in May 1945.
Even though only a few balloons reached the US, the Fugo balloon campaigns caused great anxiety and fear in the American people. The Japanese were willing to attack America, even though it was over 2,000 miles away from Japan. The fact that the balloons could cross the Pacific showed that the jet stream could also be used to attack the United States, which was a concern for the US military.
The Fugo balloon was one of many Japanese attempts to attack the United States in World War II. Other campaigns included small boats laden with explosives being launched and attempts to use submarines against cities along the west coast. These unsuccessful campaigns showed that the Japanese were prepared to go to great lengths to defeat the United States.
Fugo’s balloon campaign is an excellent example of how nations can still find innovative ways to attack enemies even amid a global war. The Japanese were determined to win the war by being willing to launch thousands upon thousands of balloons across the Pacific. The campaign highlights crucial technological innovation. The Japanese were able to use the jet stream to their advantage. The campaign did not prove to be a success and had little impact on the war’s course.
High Altitude Balloon Flying
Some high-altitude balloon flights made in the 19th century eventually led to the modern scientific exploration of upper atmospheres in the 1930s. Both passenger and military planes flew at higher altitudes than ever before. This allowed for more information to be gleaned about the conditions encountered and how to provide oxygen systems for crew and passengers.
Auguste Piccard, a Swiss physicist who was also an inventor, was the first to fly over 50,000 feet. This altitude marks the beginning of the stratosphere, which is essentially the transition between the Earth’s atmosphere and space. A person would die within seconds without oxygen and a pressure environment. Piccard designed a pressurized aluminum globe to supply oxygen to crew members under normal atmospheric pressure. Piccard invited Max Cosyns, his friend, to accompany him on the thrilling flight to the stratosphere using a hydrogen gas balloon. At 52,000 feet, the balloon set a new altitude record. Orvil Anderson and Captain Albert Stevens set a new record in 1935. Their helium balloon, Explorer II, reached 13.7 miles above Earth’s surface. This record was held for twenty years. These first stratospheric flights were a significant step toward space travel.
In August 1934, the United States Navy launched a program to explore the stratosphere with flight balloons. The Explorer program was born. It was funded initially by the National Geographic Society but later taken over by the Navy. Piccard’s design created a pressurized gondola that allowed people to stay at high altitudes for extended periods.
Army Captains Albert Stevens, Orvil Anderson, and others reached 72,395 feet from the balloon Explorer II during a 1935 flight from Stratobowl, South Dakota. This was the highest point attained by anyone before World War II. The crew’s experience and information gathered during high-altitude balloon flights during the 1930s were used to improve both equipment and procedures during World War II. Some combat planes could fly above 25,000 feet, and others could reach 40,000 feet.
In 1944, thin, mass-produced polyethylene sheets were made and became the replacement for heavier and more expensive cloth fabrics. This led to a revival in scientific and military ballooning.
Notable changes occurred in aviation after World War II was over in 1945. The world entered the space age as jet-powered rockets and planes flew faster and more efficiently.
The Explorer program made many important discoveries about the weather, cosmic radiation, the upper atmosphere, and other topics. These flights provided data and insights that improved air safety regulations and requirements for aircraft design. U.S., British, and Soviet governments sponsored stratosphere research flights. This helped to develop space exploration and eventually land a man on the moon.
High-altitude balloons can still be used today for scientific research. Scientists use them to study cosmic radiation and particle physics. They have proven that the upper atmosphere can still be explored and understood. This has opened the doors to more ambitious space exploration. The safe and reliable investigation of outer space by high-altitude balloons is possible without leaving Earth’s atmosphere. They are indispensable tools for unlocking the secrets of our universe.
Hot Air Balloons: The Rebirth
Ballooning enthusiasts decided to continue the sport after World War II. Jean Piccard’s son Don Piccard made the first American sport balloon flight after World War II. He used a Japanese Fugo balloon and an old wicker basket to launch from Minneapolis. He landed in the countryside east two hours later. This was a significant development in the sport of ballooning.
The US government funded the General Mills balloon program, which led to the invention of the modern hot-air balloon. They thought that hot air balloons could be used to extract soldiers or as a spy system using weather balloons disguised as cameras. Don Piccard and Ed Yost worked at General Mills on the Navy program. They created the modern hot-air balloon with a propane burner, nylon fabric, and other materials. The channel champ was their first flight in the balloon Ed Yost constructed. It flew over the English Channel. Ed Yost was a crucial figure in Raven Industries’ early 1960s development. Don Piccard later built Piccard balloons.
Secret Ballooning Missions
In the 1940s and 1950s, people saw high-altitude military and scientific balloons. Many of these were called flying saucers. The CIA often funded these balloons through the Navy. They also contained valuable instruments that had to be recovered. The crew could ask for the location of UFO reports if the chase aircraft lost track of the balloon.
Roswell Aliens Were Not Just Balloon Pilots
Have you heard of the Roswell incident? One of the test balloons for the Roswell project landed at Foster Ranch, New Mexico, in 1947. This incident sparked the Roswell flying saucer craze, which continues to this day. Although the flying saucer and alien parts of the Roswell incident have been disproven many times, the legend lives on.
CIA Balloon Project Mongoose
The 1960 CIA attempt in Cuba to overthrow Fidel Castro was one of the most memorable uses of balloons. Operation Mongoose was codenamed. It involved the launch of balloons carrying explosives out of Florida and then having them drift over Cuba to be detonated remotely. The intention was to create enough chaos and fear for the Cuban people to overthrow Castro with the explosions. This plan was not implemented as the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted ten days after it was activated. However, it does show the creativity that went into using balloons for covert operations.
Secret CIA Balloon Espionage
USSR and US used balloons for spying and espionage against each other. The missions involved the launch of a balloon from one nation and its subsequent drift across the border to the other country. Agents would then recover it. These balloons could be equipped with listening devices or cameras to collect intelligence. These balloons were dangerous as they could be shot down by antiaircraft guns or intercepted and destroyed by fighter jets. However, that didn’t stop brave women and men who took part in them. Project Mogul, a top-secret program at New York University, which placed microphones in the upper atmosphere to detect Soviet nuclear explosions under balloons, wasn’t a huge success. It proved too costly, and other methods were quickly found. A secret CIA project saw a balloon launched from a submarine to fly over a Russian island to take photographs at 18kft. Another torpedo then recovered it.
New Advances in Ballooning Technology
The technology in ballooning has seen considerable advancements in the past 20 years. Although balloon travel to distant locations is impossible, the fabric used for ballooning is very secure. The propane burners are robust and easy to use.
Modern Ballooning Technology
To cool the balloon’s envelope quickly, manufacturers of balloons have created a vent called a parachute. A parachute vent allows the pilot to release swiftly hot air upon landing, allowing the balloon basket not to be pulled by the envelope’s momentum. The vent can help slow down the balloon’s ascent if a balloon pilot burns.
Manufacturers of hot air balloons have developed powerful and fuel-efficient propane burners and larger fuel tanks. In the 1960s, propane burners produced between 2 and 3 million BTU. In 2022, new burners will release 30 million BTU per pull. Pilot lights on hot air balloon burners now work with ignitors and stay lit.
Fabric for Hot Air Balloons
Hot air balloon fabric was made originally from paper or silk. Modern hot air balloons are made of nylon fabric with a special coating to keep them airtight.
Hot Air Balloon Flying
You can now see hot air balloons flying around the globe. A ride can be purchased to fly over Napa Valley’s grapevines in front of Mt. Fly over Rainier, an active volcano in Seattle, or join the 550 balloons at Alburquerque’s balloon festival. There are currently around 40 pilots who fly hydrogen, and more than 4000 hot-air balloon pilots use propane burners and the Montgolfier technique.
Famous and Notable Balloon Pilots
In Finding My Virginity by Sir Richard Branson, you can read more fantastic ballooning stories. He holds multiple hybrids and hot ballooning records and attempts to fly all over the globe. He set a new world record for his transatlantic flight. John Wise’s book Through the Air from 1783 contains stories about his 40 years of ballooning adventures. Fedor Konyukhov, who flew solo the fastest hot air balloon flight in the world, is another example. His record-breaking 33,000km journey was just 11 days long and won the Guinness world record.