History of Ballooning

Mans First Flight

The history of ballooning, and of manned flight began more than two centuries ago, on the 21st of November, 1783.

On this day Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and his colleague the Marquis d'Arlandes ascended in their paper and silk craft to achieve the first recorded flight by human beings.The success of the flight as mainly due to the experiments by Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, who after observing paper rising up a chimney with the smoke from a fire, began filling upturned bags with smoke and watching them rise to the ceiling.

They experimented further with larger and larger bags of smoke until eventually building a craft large enough to carry the weight of two men. This balloon did not carry men aloft however, but, a duck, a rooster and a sheep were to be the first passengers. They survived their flight of eight minutes travelling one and a half miles, the only casualty, the duck suffering a broken wing after the sheep fell on it during landing.

With the success of this flight another larger Montgolfier was built, and was filled with the putrid black smoke from burning rotting meat, wet straw and old shoes, in accordance with the theory that the smoke provided the lift. The balloon was set aloft carrying it's two aeronauts Rozier and d'Arlandes to a height of 500 feet above the rooftops of Paris, travelling a distance of some 9 kilometres and landing safely some 25 minutes later. As the aerostat landed in the surrounding farms and vineyards of Paris, it is said that the pilots presented the more than surprised farmers and peasants with bottles of champagne to calm their fears of demons appearing from the heavens. Hence the tradition of champagne and ballooning had begun. Ten days later the first gas balloon also flew in France with physicist Jacques Charles at the helm.

Declared the sport of the Gods by Marie Antoinette, ballooning, in particular gas ballooning, became a popular past time throughout Britain and Europe. Hot air ballooning did not become as popular until the 1960's when the modern propane burner and sturdy light-weight nylon fabric were used in place of the cumbersome and unpredictable open braziers, and the flammable and fragile paper and silk.

Early Ballooning in Australia

Some great information can be found on this website ---> Early Hot Air Ballooning in Australia

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