How many balloons does it take to fly? The correct answer is one. And I am not talking of holding on for dear life at the end of a balloon on a rope. I am talking about a real balloon with a basket under it. What do you know about a hot air balloon? They look pretty on the pictures of all the balloon races. Brothers Montgolfier sent farm animals on the first ever balloon ride. Interesting isn’t it? Here are some more facts about these gentle giants that grace the sky.
1. Hot air balloons were discovered in the Annonay France by brothers Jacques and Etienne Montgolfier. The first passengers on a balloon ride were animals, a sheep, duck and a chicken. The 8 minute flight took place on September 19, 1783. The brothers demonstrated that even at higher elevations, humans are still capable of breathing.
2. The first free flight by humans was on November 21, 1783 by Jean-François Pilatre de Rozier a physics professor and François Laurent d’Arlandes an infantry major. The vessel was a wine country balloon rides made by the Montgolfier brothers.
3. The longest balloon flight was by the Virgin Pacific Flyer piloted by Per Lindstrand from Sweden and Richard Branson from the UK. They flew from Japan to Northern Canada on January 15, 1991.
4. Balloon pilots are required to have commercial pilots fixed wing license. They must have these qualifications; a minimum of 35 hours of flight instruction, training for basic aviation, pass a written test for balloons and a flight check from federal aviation officials.
5. Balloon flights are not possible during rain. The heat from the balloon can cause rainwater to boil which destroys the balloon fabric.
6. The largest hot air balloon is the Energizer Bunny Hot Hare Balloon measuring 166 feet tall with a foot size of 98EEEE.
7. Milli Karlstrom from the United Kingdom became the youngest qualified female hot air balloon pilot on her 17th birthday in 2010.
8. Piball. This is an instrument that pilots use to see the exact location that wind blows. It is simply a helium filled balloon. This method helps pilots see if the wind may potentially bring the balloon into restricted airspace and dangerous locations.
9. Balloon flights have a chase crew. True to its term, this is a ground crew that follow the balloon’s flight all through the entire trip. The chase crew have vehicles with room to accommodate passengers, the pilot and the balloon itself that can weigh over 250 lbs.
10. A champagne toast is a balloonist’s tradition. Legends say that historic French pilots always had champagne to calm angry or petrified onlookers at the landing site. Modern times has taken this tradition and is commonly practised on commercial tours.
Ten items is not enough to be in the know about hot air balloon facts. More interesting characteristics and heritage of this simple yet amazing activity will be imparted to you as you take on a flight. It is an absolute feat that transcends the modernization and evolution of aviation with that same heavenly feel of being in the air the old fashioned way.