François Pilatre de Rozier and François Laurent, marquis d’ Arlandes, made the first untethered hot-air balloon flight, flying 5.5 miles over Paris in approximately 25 minutes on 21st November 1783. Their cloth balloon was made by two French paper-making brothers Jacques-Étienne and Joseph-Michel Montgolfier, inventors of the world’s first successful hot-air balloons.
Joseph and Étienne Montgolfier ran a prosperous paper business in the South of France. which financed their interest in scientific experiments.
In 1782, they discovered that combustible materials burned under a lightweight paper or fabric bag would cause the bag to rise into the air. From this they worked out that smoke causes balloons to rise. In fact it is hot air that causes the balloons to rise, but this mistake did not interfere with their achievements.
On September 19, 1783 the Montgolfiers sent a sheep called Montauciel (“climb-to-the-sky”), a rooster, and a duck aloft in one of their balloons to test the effects of flight at high altitude on the body, in a prelude to the first manned flight. They believed the sheep to have near human physiology, the duck was a control, as ducks already fly at high altitude, and the rooster, a bird which cannot fly, was a third control. The balloon, painted azure blue and decorated with golden fleurs-de-lis, lifted up from the courtyard of the palace of Versailles in the presence of King Louis XVI. The barnyard animals stayed afloat for eight minutes and landed safely two miles away.
On October 15, Jean-François Pilátre de Rozier made a tethered test flight of a Montgolfier balloon, briefly rising into the air before returning to earth. The first untethered hot-air balloon flight occurred before a large, expectant crowd in Paris on November 21. Pilátre and d’Arlandes, took to the skies from the royal Cháteau La Muette in the Bois de Boulogne and flew approximately five miles. Humanity had finally realised the dream of flying.
The Montgolfier brothers were honoured by the French Acadámie des Sciences for their achievements.
This year, Clive celebrated Montgolfier day with a morning flight over the beautiful scenery of Bagan, in Myanmar (Burma) where he is working as a pilot over the winter.
Not a bad view from the office on a Friday morning!
Whilst we couldn’t fly here today, we are remembering many of the beautiful flights we have had in Bristol, Bath and South Wales over the years, all thanks to the Montgolfier brothers, and we can’t wait to get back out there again to start flying in March!