5 Strange Facts about Ballooning

Did you know that the hot air balloon was invented before the airplane? Take that, Wright Brothers! The hot air balloon has been carrying passengers through the sky for over a century before the Wright Bros flew their first airplane! Who knew? If that blew your mind, these 5 facts about hot air balloons will do the same.

1. A rooster, a duck, and a sheep were the first hot air balloon passengers.

    In 1783, the first hot air balloon was in flight! While, a monkey was the first animal that went to outer space, a rooster, duck, and sheep were the first animals in flight on a hot air balloon! During the flight, sheep were considered to be close to humans as they were land dwellers and the duck and the rooster were the controls of the experiment as they could already fly themselves. The balloon flew on a tether for 8 minutes, rising 1500 feet into the air and traveling 2 miles before being brought safely to the ground. The animals were unharmed. 

2. Champagne after flight originated to appease farmers.

 As hot air balloons became a hit, French aristocracy soon learned that local farmers didn’t much like rich people landing balloons down on their property. The upper class said the peasants were afraid because they thought the balloons looked like dragons, but while the smoke that powered early balloons may have appeared dragon-like, it seems more likely that the farmers didn’t want hot air balloons crushing their crops. In any case, champagne smoothed things over, and a tradition was born.

3. The Civil War had a Balloon Corps.

Established by Abraham Lincoln, the Balloon Corps had seven balloons, at least 12 gas generators, and a flat-top balloon barge that used to be an old steamboat. The balloons were used to spy on enemy movement from as far as 15 miles away. Not to be outdone, the Confederates made their own balloon (out of fine dress silk) that was eventually captured by the Union army. The Balloon Corps came to an end in 1863, as it turns out that giant balloons made good targets to shoot at during combat.

 4. The invention of the glass-bottomed hot air balloon.

 Would you take a ride in a hot air balloon that had a glass floor where you can see the ground beneath you? This is what passengers experienced when Christian Brown debuted his glass-bottom hot air balloon at the 2010 Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. Brown told the British press the flight was “terrifying” and trial flights had ended “with passengers shrieking and screaming in fear.” There’s talk of opening the glass-bottom balloon to the public. How cool!

5. Smoke hot air balloons were crazy carnival attractions. 

During the 1800s, traveling fairs often featured a daredevil show involving smoke hot air balloons. A stuntman wearing a parachute was attached to a basket-less balloon, which was then held over a fire until very hot. The balloon was released and shot into the air, dragging the stuntman up with it. When the balloon reached the highest point, the stuntman detached, opened the parachute, and descended to the ground again, much to the delight of the crowd below. 

 Knowing what you know now about hot air balloons it's time for you to take a ride in one yourself! (One much safer than a smoke hot air balloon) and see how magical these balloons really are! 

Clare Allen