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Hot Air Balloon

The history of the hot air balloon dates back to the 18th century, to the imagination and invention of two brothers, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfiers.

Their family had a paper making business, but these two brothers were not interested in it at all. They had wild imaginations and huge dreams of flying like the clouds.

After a few experiments that backfired, these two brothers put toegehter some rope and taffeta paper the size of a giant paper bag, filled it up with hot air from burning straw and wool and sent it about 100 ft up in the air.

Their plan was to build a machine (an aerostat, according to them) which would take people up in the air. They named it the “Seraphina”.

Their plan worked like magic. In front of the Annonay town square the brothers showed how their massive hot air balloon rose over 6500 ft up in the air and travelled 2 kilometres from where it took off.

This eventful day as the 4th of June 1783, and marked the beginning of the historical journey of the hot air balloon.

The same year on the 26th of August, French physicist Jacques Charles sent up a hydrogen balloon that travelled about 10 miles.

Soon the very same year, even before a man could travel in the balloon, a sheep, a rooster, and a duck travelled on the balloon taking off from the French Palace gardens on the 19th of September.

Two days later, the first manned flight in the Montgolfier hot air balloon took off from the palace gardens. The hot air balloon safe for human travel was officially born.

By the late 18th century right up until the middle of the 20th century balloons were used as tools, transportation, spying, and communication during wars.

The early part of the 20th century, a Swiss scientist Auguste Piccard made history when his balloon flew so high it went right up into the stratosphere.

Later modifications of the hot air balloon and the hydrogen balloon allowed man to fly higher and higher, and in 1960, the highest parachute jump from a balloon was recorded.

This record is one of the greatest in history, because the jumper, Captain Joe Kittinger broke the sound barrier with his body on this jump, and his freefall jump record has still not been broken.

With all these great journeys man started flying in hot air balloons across continents and seas.

One of the most memorable of those was the first around the world hot air balloon flight, which started on the 21st of March 1999 and lasted for 19 days, 21 hours and 55 minutes.

A hot air balloon consists of three parts: the envelope, the burner and the basket.

The envelope is the actual balloon made out of cloth, which holds the air, the burner is right underneath the opening of the envelope and this is where the hot air is made, the basket is the section attached to the envelope where the passengers and the pilot stand.

When the burner is heated up with propane gas, the air inside the envelope heats up and the balloon takes off the ground into the air.

The pilot has to keep firing the burner during the flight otherwise, the balloon can become unstable and fall.

The pilot’s job is quite simple. He moves the balloon upwards by allowing the propane to flow up into the envelope by adjusting the propane valves.

When he wants to bring it down, he adjusts the parachute valve, which is at the top of the balloon by a long cord. When he pulls the cord, the valve opens letting the hot air escape. When the balloon fills with cooler air the balloon slowly comes down.

Today hot air balloons are used for many different purposes including sightseeing tours.