A lot of Hot Air

We woke today as night was turning to day and for some strange reason balloons was our first thought. Where that had come from is anyone’s guess, maybe something we had dreamed – but not wanting to let go we thought some research was required which we are pleased to share with you below – we trust it is not all hot air!

There is little dispute about the date of the first balloon flight in Europe, that was in 1709 in Lisbon when Portuguese inventor Bartolomeu de Gusmao managed to raise a balloon some 4.5 metres from the ground in front of the king and his court. There is some speculation that the Nazcan culture of Peru may have used balloons to map out the Nazca ground figures and lines and that could have been as much as 2,000 years ago and certainly the Chinese were using hot air balloons for signalling purposes during military operations around 2,000 years ago.

But it was the French who first put a man in a panier and raised the balloon from the ground. In the latter part of the eighteenth century the Montgolfier brothers from Annonay, near Lyon in south eastern France, as paper mill owners were trying to float bags filled with hot air.

In 1783 the brothers demonstrated their invention using animals as the test pilots in front of the French court at Versailles and later that year the first untethered flight carrying Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes.

Since then ballooning has come a long way but it was not until the 1950s that the modern era of ballooning really took off and perhaps not surprisingly as a result of military requirements. An American called Ed Yost pioneered the on board heat source after spending years working with the military in western Germany where balloons were being used to drop propaganda on the eastern block. With the introduction of propane gas Yost succeeded in staying aloft for 35 minutes at an altitude of 600 feet at his test site at Bruning in Nebraska.

In April 1963 Yost and his co pilot Don Piccard made the first successful flight across the English Channel. Yost was most uncomplimentary toward his co pilot who jumped out of the basket when nearing the ground. After being arrested by the French authorities a banquet was organised by the local marie and they were hailed as heroes. This was the beginning of recreational ballooning.

In 1973 Yost was contacted by Malcolm Forbes to build a balloon which would fly across the American continent. Although not initially interested Forbes and Yost did eventually take off from Oregon and finally ditched their balloon in Chesapeake Bay.

We shall look at where you can go ballooning around the world over the next few days – there is no doubt about the fact that you get a very different perspective of the world we inhabit as you float by in your basket as you can see in this great video from hotskies.

Now you can see that a lot of hot air is involved and you will have plenty to talk about when you get home having seen the patchwork of fields and streets as you float through the air!!

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