September 19th, 1783 Pilatre De Rozier, a scientist, launched the first hot air balloon. The passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster and the balloon stayed in the air for a grand total of 15 minutes before crashing back to the ground.
On November 21, 1783 the first free flight carrying a human occurred in Paris, France. It was made of paper and silk and carried two men, Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent. They stood on a circular platform attached to the bottom of the balloon. The fire was hand-fed through openings on either side of the balloon’s skirt. The balloon reached an altitude of at least 500 feet and traveled about 5½ miles before landing safely 25 minutes later. Tradition says that upon landing the pilots gave bottles of champagne to the startled farmers and peasants in order to calm their fears of demons appearing from the heavens. However, research shows that in actuality they landed in a deserted farming and vineyard area near Paris with no witnesses.
Modern hot-air ballooning was born October 22, 1960 when Paul E. (Ed) Yost piloted the maiden flight of a balloon employing a new envelope and a new propane burner system which he developed. The flight lasted 25 minutes and traveled 3 miles. The balloon was 40 feet in diameter with a volume of 30,000 cubic feet.
For the past eight years Chiang Mai, Thailand has hosted an International Hot Air Balloon Festival at the golf course down the street from our condo. While it was not a large event we were able to tick off that from our bucket list.
We arrived at 5:30 am to watch the balloons being unfolded and filled with air from large powerful fans. It was quite a process and takes many hands and plenty of muscle to keep the balloons in one place until they are ready for flight.
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