When Were the First Hot-air Balloons Flown?
There was much excitement in France on September 19, 1783. The Montgolfier brothers were going to attempt to send a big balloon into the sky. They had filled a large paper balloon with hot smoke from a fire a few months before, and it had worked.
This time, the balloon was going to have passengers – a rooster, a sheep and a duck were to ride in a basket hanging from the balloon. When they let it go the balloon flew for eight minutes and the animals landed safely. In that same year, the brothers launched the first hot-air balloon to carry a person.
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, in a balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers.
The first hot-air balloon flown in the United States was launched from the Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia on January 9, 1793 by the French aeronaut Jean Pierre Blanchard. Hot air balloons that can be propelled through the air rather than simply drifting with the wind are known as thermal airships.
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. 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. A hot air balloon consists of a bag called the envelope that is capable of containing heated air. Suspended beneath is a gondola or wicker basket (in some long-distance or high-altitude balloons, a capsule), which carries passengers and (usually) a source of heat, in most cases an open flame.
The heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant since it has a lower density than the relatively cold 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 air surrounding.
For 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 fire resistant material such as Nomex.
Beginning during the mid-1970s, balloon envelopes have been made in all kinds of shapes, such as rocket ships and the shapes of various commercial products, though the traditional shape remains popular for most non-commercial, and many commercial, applications.