These days, hot air balloons can be a common sight on sunny mornings, but before the late 18th century, the idea of humans actually flying was the stuff of fantasy. However, on 19 September 1783, brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, with the help of Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, launched a hot air balloon in Paris, France. The balloon carried a sheep, a duck, and a rooster as its first passengers. All three animals survived the trip.
The success of this experiment led to other attempts, and no less a historical personage than Benjamin Franklin witnessed as Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier ascended above Paris in another hot air balloon, also in 1783. Nowadays, hot air balloon festivals are common in the spring and fall in many parts of the world. Balloon pilots now have propane burners to help keep the balloons aloft, with chase crews following them to their eventual landing sites, so the pilots can be picked up and the balloons packed up and made ready for the next flight.
More about hot air balloons:
- Since hot air balloons are subject to winds when aloft, most flights take place at dawn or dusk, when the winds are usually calmer.
- The main part of a hot air balloon, known as the "envelope," is made from ripstop nylon. The lower part, closest to the burner, is made from a fire-resistant material like Nomex, similar to the fabric used for automobile racing uniforms.
- Balloon pilots must log at least 10 flights and 35 hours in the air in order to receive a commercial license. They must also pass an oral and written test and a flight check from an instructor.