Hot air balloons are a wonderful way to travel, especially if you’re in a remote area where commercial flights are impossible. But there are a few risks involved.
The cold that can occur when traveling in the air can make you feel like you’re in a freezer, and if you’re not careful, you can easily be knocked out of the sky. However, if you’re careful, there are few risks involved.
And since their invention in the 18th century, they’ve been a way to explore the world and view our planet as few other people have. But the aviation community is a competitive bunch, and there are many ways to win a flight.
Steve Fossett is an American billionaire, record-setting pilot and adventurer, who is probably most famous for being the first person to fly solo around the world in a hot air balloon.
In the 1960s, when he was only 22, he became the first to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. When he landed back in the U.S. in 1965, he became the youngest ocean and non-stop circumnavigator in history.
In the summer of 2002, Steve Fossett, a wealthy adventurer and a pilot for the U.S. Navy, successfully completed a trip around the world that lasted 77 days.
The journey, which covered more than 35,000 miles, began on July 2, 2002, in the Bay Area of California and ended July 29, 2002, in Sydney, Australia.
The flight distance was longer than the first trip by balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard in 1976, but this trip was the first to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon.
The History of Hot Air Balloons
1783 – First Hot Air Balloon Flight
“The year is 1783. A hot air balloon flies over the town of Montgomerie, Scotland, and in doing so holds the first known passenger.
He was a former soldier, John James, who had received a government pension of £50 a year, and made the journey from Edinburgh to Glasgow in an attempt to sell some of his extensive timber business in the Low Countries.
He did not succeed in his mission, and returned to Scotland in the autumn with a friend, John Short, who had also made the journey for the purpose of selling some of his crops.
1793 – First balloon flight in America.
Since as far back as the 4th century BCE, hot air balloons have been in use for transportation. But the first recorded balloon flight in the United States was actually in 1793, when Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard took an unmanned balloon across the Delaware River.
The machine, known as “Le Cirrus”, had a capacity of only a few liters of gas. Blanchard’s trip was meant to draw attention to his invention, but it was perhaps more notable for its failure to make the crossing.
1870 – Hot air balloon used at war.
In 1870, the French army used hot air balloons as an aerial observation tool against the Prussians during the Franco-Prussian war (better known to us as World War 1). The balloons, powered by hydrogen, were stationed over the Prussian army; as the balloons soared, they inflated their hydrogen tanks, which were filled with kerosene.
The balloons would then burn through the kerosene, forcing hot air from their bellows into their balloon’s envelope. This hot air pushed down on the balloon’s occupants, enabling them to steer the balloon in their direction of choice.
1906 – Ballooning grow as a sport.
As early as 1906, the German brothers, Otto and Lorenz, established a German hot air balloon association. The brothers each had their own design for a hot air balloon.
Since the balloon was powered by hot air instead of flammable gas, safety became a major consideration. The brothers built their balloon out of a lightweight fabric called “Hirschleder” (deer cloth) and covered it with a layer of rubberized paint to protect it from the elements.
1931 – First gas balloon flight to the stratosphere.
It was an eerie day in August 1931 when the world first saw the light of day above the clouds. The balloon, “Abd-el-Krim”, soared above the clouds, and was the first to reach and exceed 100,000 feet (31,200 meters) in altitude.
The balloon was piloted by Belgian geographer Henri Giffard, but it’s not entirely clear who invented the craft or the idea behind it. The idea behind “Abd-el-Krim” (which means ‘servant of the Krim’) was to take the airship to the stratosphere to study the effect of pressure and temperature on humans.
1960 – Modern hot air ballooning era takes off.
In 1960, Ken Coletti and Andre Long and their two buddies designed and built their first hot air balloon, the White Clouds, to fly in the NY World’s Fair.
A mere 9 years later, the adobe-walled aeronautics business was up and running, and today the White Clouds is a pioneering part of an ever-growing industry.
1978 – First transatlantic flight in a helium gas balloon.
On March 3, 1978, a team of five hot air balloonists from the UK and France attempted to fly the 50th anniversary of the first balloon flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
The team behind the first transatlantic flight in a helium balloon in 1978, which took place between England and France, is still the team behind the world’s longest balloon flight.
Helium is a gas that under normal conditions is very rare in the atmosphere, but it is really easy to find and can be caused to boil by heating. It is not found naturally in the air, but can be created by nuclear reactions or by other means.
1991 – First transpacific hot air balloon flight.
Hot air balloons have been around for thousands of years, and they have a long history of being used for exploration, transport, and even warfare.
In early November of 1991, the first transpacific hot air balloon flight took place between the west coast of the United States and the Japanese island of Miyake-jima (the same place where Charles Lindbergh had flown into the first transatlantic crossing in 1927).
2010 – Longest distance flight in an AX-02 Balloon.
This year, one of the longest distance flights in an AX-02 Balloon took place. To make the flight, the balloon was filled with over 180 gallons of helium.
The flight started at 10,000 feet in a dark, cold morning and ended at 14,000 feet, under a blue sky. T
he flight ended when the balloon reached its maximum altitude and drifted over the mountains like a kite. The flight lasted over an hour and a half.
2016 – Fastest solo round the world balloon flight.
August 18, 2016 will mark the end of a major year for hot air ballooning. After a series of record hot air balloon flights in 2015, the sport of hot air ballooning has experienced a huge boost. The year that we achieved our goal of flying around the world in one month.