In 1783, the inaugural hot air balloon flight – with a sheep, rooster, and duck as passengers – gave the term “animal testing” a new meaning. Although they didn’t know it, the animals became instant heroes in the history of hot air ballooning. Although it only lasted a few minutes, that first flight proved successful, and it is credited with launching hot air ballooning as a popular (human) sport enjoyed worldwide today.
History In The Making
After spending quite some time preparing the first hot air balloon for flight, French inventors (and brothers) Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier and Joseph-Michel Montgolfier were excited to test the balloon before curious onlookers. But unlike many “firsts” in flight history, there were no humans aboard this balloon. Instead, the balloon was occupied by just a duck, rooster, and sheep. The animals were launched before a cheering crowd of about 130,000 curious spectators, including the king of France. Prior to the initial flight, the king had suggested using prisoners as test passengers. However, the Montgolfier brothers opted to use animals instead. Their rationale was that the sheep would have a similar physical and psychological response to flight that a human would have. The birds were selected as natural choices because they could fly. Once the balloon was launched, it remained in the air for about eight minutes before returning without incident to the ground. This first flight, although short, gave the Montgolfier brothers enough confidence to send humans into the air. The first human to board the hot air balloon was a chemistry professor named Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier. Flying in a balloon tethered to the ground, the professor flew for four minutes before the balloon was brought back down. Sadly, Pilatre de Rozier was later killed in a hot air balloon crash. Despite the loss, the Montgolfier brothers continued improving the balloon. In 1784 the first commercial hot air balloon, which could hold seven passengers, was launched.
The Evolution Of Hot Air Ballooning
Hot air ballooning has come a long way since the initial test flight. Today, Vegas hot air balloons carry anywhere from one to over a dozen paying passengers for rides that last about 45-60 minutes. Balloons fly at an altitude between 1,200 and 3,000 feet. You can rest assured that modern balloon rides are much safer too, as they are flown by certified pilots, not farm animals!
With thousands of enthusiasts worldwide, hot air ballooning is a sport that’s here to stay. Impressive records in height and flying distance are continually broken by pilots looking to test the limits, which means there’s never a dull moment in the sport. If you’ve never had the privilege of experiencing a hot air balloon ride, now is your chance to write your own chapter in the history of hot air ballooning and sign up for a ride!