The 21st November marks the anniversary of the first free flight of a manned hot air balloon and balloonists all over the world celebrate Montgolfier Day. 235 years ago Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes made the first manned free balloon flight on 21 November 1783 in a Montgolfier balloon and flew for approximately 9 kilometers across Paris.
Their balloon was made from silk by two brothers Jacques-Étienne and Joseph-Michel Montgolfier who are recognised as the inventors of the world’s first successful hot air balloons. The Montgolfiers ran a prosperous paper business in the South of France which financed their interest in scientific experiments.
In 1782, the Montgolfier brothers discovered that smoke from a combustible material carried lightweight pieces of paper into the air. We now know that hot air rises, not just smoke! This did not interfere with their research and invention of the balloon.
The first ‘passengers’ to fly on 19th September 1783 were a sheep, duck and a rooster. The animals were used to test the effects of flight at altitude on living things before sending a manned flight. The sheep called Montauciel (“climb-to-the-sky”) was chosen as it was believed to have near human physiology. The duck was chosen as it already flew at altitude and the rooster was a third control which cannot fly.
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 free hot-air balloon flight occurred before a large and excited crowd in Paris on 21st November. 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. Today across France and parts of Europe hot air balloons are still called “Montgolfiers”.
235 years on, hot air ballooning is still a fascinating and transformative experience. We invite you to join Goldrush Ballooning for a flight in the King Valley, Mansfield or beautiful northeast Victoria.