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Sunday, 5 February 2012



It is believed that the Aztecs were the first to make crude "animal balloons." They created inflated animals from the bowels of cats which were presented to the gods as a sacrifice. After cleaning and preparing the intestines, they were twisted and air was blown into them after each twist.

The first passengers in the history of aviation were a cockerel, a sheep and a duck, transported by a hot-air balloon developed by Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier. The flight on September 19, 1783 at Versailles lasted approximately eight minutes, covering two miles. All emerged unscathed, except for the cockerel which was kicked by the sheep shortly before lift-off.

The first manned flight was by Pilâtre de Rozier and Marquis d'Arlandes at Paris on November 21, 1783 in a hot-air balloon designed by the Montgolfier brothers. They were airborn for 20 minutes and it flew five miles.

French opera singer Élisabeth Thible was the first woman to fly in an un-tethered hot air balloon. Her flight on June 4, 1784 covered four kilometres (2.5 miles) in 45 minutes, and reached an estimated 1,500 metres altitude.  It was witnessed by King Gustav III of Sweden in whose honor the balloon was named.

A year later, Pilâtre de Rozier and his companion, Pierre Romain, became the first-ever casualties of an air crash when their hot air balloon exploded during their attempt to cross the English Channel.

Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard, (1753-1809), the inventor of the parachute, successfully made the first air-crossing of the English Channel from Dover to Calais on January 7, 1785. Mr. Blanchard and his American passenger, Dr. John Jeffries, had to shed all of their clothes as the wind died and the balloon’s airbag cooled too quickly over the sea. Neither man could swim.

Crossing of the English Channel by Blanchard in 1785.

Eight years later, Jean-Pierre Blanchard made the first successful balloon flight in the United States. Blanchard’s balloon, filled with hydrogen, took off from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soared to 5,800 feet and eventually wound up some 15 miles away, in Woodbury, New Jersey. President George Washington was in Philadelphia for the event, along with Thomas Jefferson, and other bigwigs. Just before takeoff, the President slipped Blanchard a note. The letter was intended to allay the fears and suspicions of local farmers who saw Blanchard drop out of the sky.

The first rubber balloons were made by scientist Michael Faraday in 1824 for use in his experiments with hydrogen.

On August 22, 1849, Austria launched unmanned balloons carrying bombs with time-delay fuses against Venice. It was the first air raid in history.

A hot air balloon was used to carry mail for the first time in 1859. John Wise left Lafayette, Indiana, for New York City with 100 letters. He had to land after only 27 miles.

The first ever aerial photograph of an American city is of Boston in 1860. The photo, taken by J.W. Black from a hot air balloon, is titled: “Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It” (see below)

Abraham Lincoln established hot air balloon corps during the American Civil War.

They used to release massive balloons from Macy's Thanksgiving Parade into the air. If found, you could redeem one for a $100 reward. But they stopped because in "1932 an errant balloon wrapped itself around a passing airplane's wing, sending it into a tailspin."

Double Eagle II became the first balloon to cross the Atlantic Ocean when it landed in Miserey near Paris, 137 hours after leaving Presque Isle, Maine. in 1978.

In 1982 a man called Larry Walters soared 16,000 feet above Los Angeles in an aluminum lawn chair tethered to helium weather balloons. He ended up floating in the path of pilots at LAX Airport. Armed with a pellet gun, Walters controlled his descent by firing the gun at the balloons, popping them one by one.

The Balloonfest '86 was an event in which the United Way of Cleveland in Ohio set a world record by releasing almost one and a half million balloons simultaneously from Cleveland's Public Square on September 27, 1986. The balloons collided with a rain front and dropped towards the ground, clogging the land and waterways of Northeast Ohio. In the days following the event, balloons were reported washed ashore on the Canadian side of Lake Erie.

Swiss psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard and English balloonist Brian Jones set off on March 1, 1999 in the balloon Breitling Orbiter 3 from Château d'Oex in Switzerland on the first non-stop balloon circumnavigation around the globe. They landed in Egypt 19 days, 21 hours and 47 minutes later on March 21st after a 28,431 mile (45,755 km) flight. 

Own work assumed (based on copyright claims).Wikipedia Commons

American aviator Steve Fossett became the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a balloon on July 2, 2002, completing an almost 14-day trip after landing in Queensland, Australia. Seven years earlier, Fossett had become the first person to make a solo flight across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon. 

Fossett in 2006

Wu ZuyOu, of China, set a world record in 2011 for the largest balloon inflated in a minute with air blown through the tear ducts of both eyes. The diameter was 16.1 cm (6.33 in).

Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner jumped to Earth from a helium balloon in the stratosphere on October 14, 2012. As part of this project, he set a new altitude record for a manned balloon flight of 39,045 metres (128,100 feet) or just over 39 kilometers (24 miles).

Kittinger leaps from his helium balloon 

Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot-air balloon flight in November 2013 when he reached 69,850 feet.


The bang that accompanies a balloon that pops when it becomes too full of air is four decibels louder than a 12-gauge shotgun.

The rips that tear through a rubber balloon when it is popped travel faster than the speed of sound in rubber.

If you put a piece of scotch tape on an inflated balloon, then stick it with a small pin or needle, it won't pop.

Human lungs are 100 times easier to blow up than a standard toy balloon.

Felix the Cat was in 1927 the first cartoon character to ever have been made into a balloon for a parade.

Each Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon contains, on average, 12,000 cubic feet of helium, which is capable of lifting nearly 750 lbs.

The bang that accompanies a balloon that pops when it becomes too full of air is four decibels louder than a 12-gauge shotgun.

It would take 23.5 million party balloons to lift a house into the air like in the movie Up.

Yo-yo balloons are a common type of water balloon found at festivals in Japan. The balloon is tied shut and hung from an elastic string with a finger loop tied at the end. This gives them enough weight and bounce to function as a yo-yo, earning their name.

There are more hot air balloons per head of population in Lithuania than in any other country.

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