A hot air balloon was the first form of any manned flight. The Montgolfier brothers of France were paper makers who discovered balloons while looking for additional applications for their paper products. The first balloon they built was constructed of light weight fabric and paper. They noticed that when held over an open flame, it would rise up and float. The Montgolfier’s were so intrigued by this that they built larger ones big enough to carry passengers. Since no man has ever flow before, the brothers did not want to fly in it at first for fear of injury. They still needed someone to test the balloon to see if it was safe to fly and found someone they did. As the their hot air balloon was inflated and ready to fly, they boarded their first passengers, a hen, a sheep and a dog ! The balloon lifted off, flew for a short time and safely returned to the earth. The brothers were now so eager to float off in their invention. The first flight was planned to depart from Bois de Boulogne in France in the year 1783. As they fed the balloons fire with straw and sheep’s’ wool, the Montgolfier brothers rose above the French country side and achieved the first ever manned flight to a crowd of 400,000 people, almost the entire population of Pairs at that time. After twenty five minutes aloft, the two aeronauts came softly down to earth. After the flight they celebrated with a champagne toast. Today we continue this tradition after each flight. Ballooning has become more than just flying, it’s a social event bringing together people that want to enjoy life !
Since the 1700’s, hot air ballooning has evolved greatly. A long way from the straw to feed the fire. We now use propane in an accurately controlled manner to achieve perfect altitude control. As far as directional steering goes, Mother Nature will be our co-pilot determining our direction of flight and also how fast we get there. Balloons today are certified aircraft, regulated and inspected by Federal requirements.
Hot air balloons have even been used during the US Civil War as mobile aerial observation platforms to spy on enemy activities. There was even two families that escaped from East Germany in 1979 using a homemade hot air balloon that was built in secret.
The Modern Hot Air Balloon of today was first built in 1960 by Raven Industries of South Dakota. Since that time, the materials and designs have improved, but the principal of hot air must rise is still the force that gives us lift.
Ballooning has taken off as a sport in the early 1970's and has become a popular experiential adventure of a life time.
Balloons are also effectively used for advertising and corporate name recognition. Imagine someone stopping their car, getting out and taking a photograph or your balloon with your logo or corporate advertising on it.
By far the biggest use of a hot air balloon is fulfilling your dreams of flying like a spirit floating over this wonderful earth we share together. You will have to come fly and see for yourself how romantic flying in a hot air balloon over new jersey nj is.
Tom 'the balloon man'