History of Hot Air Balloons

Hot air ballooning is a very old kind of aviation.  It started more than 200 years ago by a French Scientist, who memorably sent a very puzzled sheep, duck and cockerel up in the air.  This no longer happens nowadays.

Older and automatic balloons

Balloons that did not have a crew were common in China during the three kingdom era, between 220–280 AD.  They used inflight oil lamps for armed communication. These oil lamps are called Kongming lanterns.  Furthermore, there is a theory that hot air balloons were also utilised by Peruvian people approximately 2000 years ago to design the well-known Nazca ground figures and lines.  The very first recorded balloon trip within Europe was exhibited by De Gusmão. in 1709, in Lisbon.  He succeeded in lifting a balloon bursting with hot air approximately  4.5 meters ahead of the King -  John Vand  the court in Portugal.


First manned flight

The earliest case of a balloon carrying passengers happened in 1783 by Etienne Montgolfier. A gentleman called Pilatre de Rozier was the second person to rise into mid- air, at a height of 80 feet, which was the same lengthwise measurement of the rope.  In 1783, the initial free flight occurred carrying human passengers.  In the beginning, King Louis XVI declared that convicted offenders would be the principal flyers, however; de Rozier, and  d'Arlandes, effectively lobbied for the respect.  The French utilised a hot air balloon for the very first time in 1794, for armed purposes during the conflict of Fleurus.   It was utilised as a surveillance pole. 


Ed Yost founded contemporary hot air balloons, which had heat supplies on-board.  Ed Yost’s efforts  meant that he was able to fly successfully in the 1960’s.  Bristol Belle was the first contemporary hot air balloon to be constructed in the United Kingdom (UK), during 1967.  These days, hot air balloons are mainly used for leisure purposes. 

Hot air balloons are capable of flying at very high altitudes. The world record was set in 2005, by Vijaypat Singhania, who reached 68,986 ft. He set off from Mumbai (In India), and set down 240 km south in Panchale.  The previous record of 19,811 m (64,997 ft) had been set by Per Lindstrand on June 6, 1988 in Plano, Texas. Like with every unpressurized airliner, oxygen is required for each crew member and travellers on every flight exceeding an altitude of approximately 15,000 ft.   

Per Linstrand and Richard Branson, finished the longest journey, in 1991, on the Virgin Pacific Flyer balloon.  They flew 7,671.91 km from Japan to Northern Canada.  The balloon envelope had a volume of 74 thousand cubic meters, which is the biggest ever designed for a hot air jet. The Pacific Flyer recorded the highest ground speed for a balloon carrying a human being at 245 mph. Piccard's grandson, and Brian Jones did an around- the- clock trip of the world on a balloon and set the longest time record. The balloon departed from Switzerland, on 1/3/1999, and landed in Cairo (Egypt) on 21/3 1999.  Both men managed to break distance, staying power, and time records, touring for 19 days, 21 hours, and 55 minutes. In July 2003, Steve Fosset manages to beat the top score for shortest time around the world and the newest record is 320 h 33 minutes. 

Balloon TimeLine


First flight by French Scientist – Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier. The balloon was offered a boost by hot air, and had a section of very light gas – such as helium or hydrogen - in the top. The flight lasted 15 minutes in total.

First Man Handled Hot Air Balloon Flight -  

By Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes –


Foremost UK Balloon Trip

By James Tytler, from Scotland, who flew to Edinburgh.  Nevertheless, he was soon overshone by an Italian mediator Vincenzo Lunardi who finished  the first balloon flight in England.


Foremost  English Channel Balloon Crossing

French aeronaut Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries triumphantly flew across the Channel. They carried and delivered a letter.


Foremost American Balloon Trip

Jean-Pierre Blanchard finishes  the first balloon flight in North America.  He flew from Philadelphia to Gloucester County, New Jersey.


Foremost Balloon Trip To Cover A Long Distance

The Famous Balloon of Nassau glided 800 km.  It went from London to Germany within 18 hours.


The Use of Hot Air Balloons For Military Purposes

Balloons were utilised  for armed surveillance throughout the Franco-Prussian War.  A French Cleric made a gripping exodus, Bond style, from a sieged Paris on a  balloon.


Ballooning As A Form Of Athletics

Because of Gordon Bennett’s Balloon Trophy Race, ballooning became appealing as a sport.


Momentous Distance Record

The Berliner hot air balloon flew 3,052 km  from Germany to Russia.

World War I

Balloons were used for armed inspections throughout the war between 1914 to 1918.


Balloon Trip to The Stratosphere Using Gas

Auguste Piccard flew to the Stratosphere at 15,781 m in a metal cabin transported by a hydrogen gas balloon. He stretched to 16,507 m the following year.


Contemporary Hot Air Balloon

Edward Yost designed a propane burner, which changed ballooning from gas power to hot air. A hot air balloon triumphantly flew in the USA; it used the propane burner. 


The Tallest Gas Balloon Flight

Malcolm Ross and Victor Prather accomplished 34,679m , the highest ever gas balloon flight.


Subsequent Era For Ballooning

In the 70’s and 80’s, there was a growth of new man made fabrics, which meant that ballooning became a well-liked contemporary sport.


World Balloon Contest

The very first contests took place in the US. 


The Very First Transatlantic Flight in Helium Gas Balloon

Abruzzo, Anderson and  Newman flew an astonishing 5,000 km  from the  USA to , France.  They completed the journey in 137 hours and 6 minutes.


The Very First Transatlantic Hot Air Balloon Trip

Sir Richard Branson and Per Linstrand successfully flew the Virgin Atlantic Flyer


The Very First Transpacific Hot Air Balloon Trip

Sir Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand crossed  the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Arctic Canada at the farthest away distance of 6,700 miles. This broke all current records. 


Around The World Balloon Trip For The First Time

Piccard and Jones flew a helium/hot air balloon, called the Breitling Orbiter 3, around the globe.  It took them 19 days, 21 hours, and 55 minutes.


A Solo Around the World Flight For The First Time

Steve Fossett – A millionaire from America – flew around the world in a helium/hot air balloon. He flew for 13 days, 34,000 km (22,100 mi).


Female Effort To Beat Altitude

Pilot Lindsay Muir, tried to fly her balloon to 34,000 ft, in Italy.  However, strong winds and turmoil caused her efforts to go pear shaped although it received a lot of national attention for Virgin and ballooning in general.

Highest Hot Air Balloon Flight

Vijaypat Singhania, who is an Indian businessman and Pilot, flew up to 21,290 m in a huge 160ft tall balloon with a pressurized cabin.


Concert & Recorded Sing

Virgin Balloon Flights teamed up with rock band the Girls and Future Music magazine, who performed  and recorded ‘What I did Today’ at 1,848 m (6,063 ft) above Wiltshire.


Disconnected & In-Flight

A concert -  Newton Faulkner – was hosted by the Virgin Team and Sony BMG in a balloon above the Swiss Alps. This occasion was the first ever performance recorded in a hot air balloon for national radio.  It received extensive reporting .


Long Flight - AX-02 Balloon

Mark Shemilt  (Virgin Balloon Pilot) broke the world record for duration flight by maintaining a specialist lightweight hopper balloon (AX-02 group) over the French Alps.  He did so for seven hours and 32 minutes, and beat the former record by over thirty minutes. 


Shermitt did it once more in February 2010; he broke the distance record in the same AX-02 group balloon. 


Biggest Balloon Rise


329 balloons in total lined up to take-off at a balloon fiesta in France, which set the world record for the largest mass ascent of hot air balloons. In the meantime, Kenneth Karlstrom (Virgin Pilot and Director) beat 120 of the best Aviators to win the respected occasion’s goal flying contest.