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Hot Air Ballooning History

It may be surprising to learn that the hot air balloons recognisable today didn’t start out looking like that. In fact they looked a little more like lanterns that are popular in today’s society at celebrations and special occasions such as weddings or birthdays. Like today, they were made of extremely lightweight and thin material making them carry naturally with the wind. To give them flight, small flames were inserted at the base of the balloon and hundreds were set off at one time.

So not quite like the kind of balloons you think about today. But these lanterns showed that an injection of hot air can give material flight. From then on many inventors and pioneers spent time working out how to create a balloon big enough to carry a person. This was no easy task – materials at the time were not as strong as they are now nor was the technology used in any way as advanced.

The first manned hot air balloon was around 1783. The man who was brave enough to undertake such a task was Etienne Montgolfier, who spent years, investigating how to create a contraption that would successfully carry him off the ground and into the air.

Prior to Montgolfier, the only other hot air balloon flight to have been a success carrying living things included a sheep, duck and a rooster. As these animals suffered no harm from climbing high into the sky, Montgolfier seemed satisfied that he would be safe to follow them. Unlike balloon flights today, Montgolfier didn’t use the balloon to travel anywhere. In fact the balloon climbed into the sky, but was tethered to the ground to stop it from climbing too far as they hasn’t properly worked out how to safely land the balloon!

Balloon flights didn’t become popular amongst the general public until rather recently. This was mainly due to the fact that hot air balloon flights weren’t easily accessible for the majority of people.

This was especially true during wartime – countries at a stand still and focusing on only one thing wasn’t really the time for frivolous activities such as balloon flights. But hot air balloons did play a part in wartime. They were used as a means of shielding the ground below by being allowed to drift up high above the rooftops. Doing so would make it extremely hard for the opposition to attack.

So as you can see hot air balloons have come a long way from where they started, as beautiful celebratory lanterns and military equipment. The main purpose balloons have nowadays is to show some of the wonders of the world, whist high up in the sky experiencing a once in a lifetime balloon flight.