This Day in History, Nov. 21: First Manned, Untethered Hot Air Balloon Flight (1783)

First Manned, Untethered Hot Air Balloon Flight (1783)

hot air balloon is a lighter-than-air aircraft consisting of a bag, called an envelope, which contains heated air. Suspended beneath is a gondola or wicker basket (in some long-distance or high-altitude balloons, a capsule), which carries passengers and a source of heat, in most cases an open flame caused by burning liquid propane. The heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant since it has a lower density than the colder air outside the envelope. As with all aircraft, hot air balloons cannot fly beyond the atmosphere. Unlike gas balloons, the envelope does not have to be sealed at the bottom, since the air near the bottom of the envelope is at the same pressure as the surrounding air. In modern sport balloons the envelope is generally made from nylon fabric and the inlet of the balloon (closest to the burner flame) is made from a fire resistant material such as Nomex. Modern balloons have been made in all kinds of shapes, such as rocket ships and the shapes of various commercial products, though the traditional shape is used for most non-commercial, and many commercial, applications.

The hot air balloon is the first successful human-carrying flight technology. The first untethered manned hot air balloon flight was performed by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes on November 21, 1783, in Paris, France,[1] in a balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers.[2] The first hot-air balloon flown in the Americas was launched from the Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia on January 9, 1793 by the French aeronaut Jean Pierre Blanchard.[3] Hot air balloons that can be propelled through the air rather than simply drifting with the wind are known as thermal airships.

First manned flight

The French brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier developed a hot air balloon in Annonay, Ardeche, France and demonstrated it publicly on September 19, 1783, making an unmanned flight lasting 10 minutes. After experimenting with unmanned balloons and flights with animals, the first balloon flight with humans aboard, a tethered flight, performed on or around October 15, 1783, by Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier who made at least one tethered flight from the yard of the Reveillon workshop in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Later that same day, Pilatre de Rozier became the second human to ascend into the air, reaching an altitude of 26 m (85 ft), the length of the tether.[7][8] The first free flight with human passengers was made a few weeks later, on November 21, 1783.[9] King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, but de Rozier, along with Marquis François d’Arlandes, petitioned successfully for the honor.[10][11][12] The first military use of a hot air balloon happened in 1794 during the battle of Fleurus, when the French used the balloon l’Entreprenant for observation.[13]


Modern hot air balloons, with an onboard heat source, were developed by Ed Yost, beginning during the 1950s; his work resulted in his first successful flight, on October 22, 1960.[14] The first modern hot air balloon to be made in the United Kingdom (UK) was the Bristol Belle, built in 1967. Presently, hot air balloons are used primarily for recreation. Hot air balloons are able to fly to extremely high altitudes. On November 26, 2005 Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot air balloon flight, reaching 21,027 m (68,986 ft). He took off from downtown Mumbai, India, and landed 240 km (150 mi) south in Panchale.[15] The previous record of 19,811 m (64,997 ft) had been set by Per Lindstrand on June 6, 1988, in Plano, Texas.

On January 15, 1991, the ‘Virgin Pacific Flyer’ balloon completed the longest flight in a hot air balloon when Per Lindstrand (born in Sweden, but resident in the UK) and Richard Branson of the UK flew 7,671.91 km (4,767.10 mi) from Japan to Northern Canada. With a volume of 74,000 cubic meters (2.6 million cubic feet), the balloon envelope was the largest ever built for a hot air craft. Designed to fly in the trans-oceanic jet streams, the Pacific Flyer recorded the fastest ground speed for a manned balloon at 245 mph (394 km/h). The longest duration record was set by Swiss psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard, Auguste Piccard’s grandson; and Briton Brian Jones, flying in the Breitling Orbiter 3. It was the first nonstop trip around the world by balloon. The balloon left Château-d’Oex, Switzerland, on March 1, 1999, and landed at 1:02 a.m. on March 21 in the Egyptian desert 300 miles (480 km) south of Cairo. The two men exceeded distance, endurance, and time records, traveling 19 days, 21 hours, and 55 minutes. Steve Fossett, flying solo, exceeded the record for briefest time traveling around the world on 3 July 2002 on his sixth attempt,[16] in 320 h 33 min.[17] Fedor Konyukhov flew solo round the world on his first attempt in a hybrid hot-air/helium balloon from 11 to 23 July 2016[18] for a round-the world time of 272h 11m, as of 17 September 2016 awaiting official confirmation as the new record.[17]



  1. Jump up^ Tom D. Crouch (2008). Lighter Than AirJohns Hopkins University PressISBN978-0-8018-9127-4.
  2. Jump up^ “U.S. Centennial of Flight Commisstion: Early Balloon Flight in Europe”. Archived from the original on 2008-06-02. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  3. Jump up^ Beischer, DE; Fregly, AR (January 1962). “Animals and man in space. A chronology and annotated bibliography through the year 1960”(PDF)US Naval School of Aviation Medicine. ONR TR ACR-64 (AD0272581). Retrieved 2017-07-24 – via Rubicon Foundation.
  4. Jump up^ Deng, Yinke (2005). Ancient Chinese Inventions. Beijing: China Intercontinental Press., cited in Joel Serrão, Dicionário de História de Portugal, Vol III. Porto: Livraria Figueirinhas, 1981, 184–85
  5. Jump up^ Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo. “Cartas Consultas e Mais Obras de Alexandre de Gusmão” (páginas do manuscrito 201-209)
  6. Jump up^ De Gusmão, Bartolomeu. “Reproduction fac-similé d’un dessin à la plume de sa description et de la pétition adressée au Jean V. (de Portugal) en langue latine et en écriture contemporaine (1709) retrouvés récemment dans les archives du Vatican du célèbre aéronef de Bartholomeu Lourenco de Gusmão “l’homme volant” portugais, né au Brésil (1685-1724) précurseur des navigateurs aériens et premier inventeur des aérostats. 1917″.
  7. Jump up^ Glenday, Craig (2013). Guinness world records 2014ISBN978-1-908843-15-9.
  8. Jump up^ Tom D. Crouch (2009). Lighter Than Air
  9. Jump up^ “U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission: Early Balloon Flight in Europe”. Archived from the original on 2008-06-02. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  10. Jump up^ “Start-Flying: History of Balloon Flying”. Retrieved 2007-12-28.
  11. Jump up^ “Lighter than air: The Montgolfier Brothers”. Retrieved 2007-12-28.
  12. Jump up^ “National Air and Space Museum: Pioneers of Flight gallery”. Retrieved 2007-12-28.
  13. Jump up^ “Fleurus (Municipality, Province of Hainaut, Belgium)”. CRW Flags Inc. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
  14. Jump up^ Hevesi, Dennis (2007-06-04). “Ed Yost, 87, Father of Modern Hot-Air Ballooning, Dies”The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  15. Jump up^ “Dr. Vijaypat Singhania enters the Guinness World Records”(PDF). Retrieved 2008-06-22.
  16. Jump up^ Fedor Konyukhov (17 September 2016). “Experience: I flew solo around the world in a hot-air balloon”The Guardian. Retrieved 17 September 2016. Article by Konyukhov describing the experience.
  17. Jump up to:ab “Balloon World Records”. Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Archived from the original on 8 September 2016. Retrieved 17 September 2016. Steve Fossett and Fedor Konyukhov, both sub-class AM-15.

External links


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