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History of Airships and Balloons

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First Flights - Hot Air Balloons and the Montgolfier Brothers
Montgolfier Balloon 1783

Montgolfier Balloon 1783

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The Montgolfier brothers, born in Annonay, France, were the inventors of the first practical balloon. The first demonstrated flight of a hot air balloon took place on June 4, 1783, in Annonay, France.

Montgolfiere Balloon

Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier, paper mill owners, were trying to float bags made of paper and fabric. When the brothers held a flame near the opening at the bottom, the bag (called a balon) expanded with hot air and floated upward. The Montgolfier brothers built a larger paper-lined silk balloon and demonstrated it on June 4, 1783, in the marketplace at Annonay. Their balloon (called a Montgolfiere) lifted 6,562 feet into the air.

First Passengers

On September 19, 1783, in Versailles, a Montgolfiere hot air balloon carrying a sheep, a rooster, and a duck flew for eight minutes in front of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the French court.

First Manned Flight

On October 15, 1783, Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis d'Arlandes were the first human passengers on a Montgolfiere balloon. The balloon was in free flight, meaning it was not tethered.

On January 19, 1784, a huge Montgolfiere hot air balloon carried seven passengers to a height of 3,000 feet over the city of Lyons.

Montgolfier Gas

At the time, the Montgolfiers believed they had discovered a new gas (they called Montgolfier gas) that was lighter than air and caused the inflated balloons to rise. In fact, the gas was merely air, which became more buoyant as it was heated.
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