Learn About Hot Air Balloon History, One Of The Most Famous Inventions | Kidadl


Learn About Hot Air Balloon History, One Of The Most Famous Inventions

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Hot air balloons look fantastic as the colorful balloons roam around the clear blue sky.

Nowadays, hot air balloons are used for lots of activities, such as for leisure and recreational purposes, news anchoring and coverage, spreading of social messages like the dates for vaccination drives, and so on.

Some of these balloons are plain and white with posters but most of them have bright colorful designs. These heated gas balloons look like airborne lanterns. The open flame makes the balloon visible even in the dark and is sometimes even used for military signaling. Hot air balloons came into existence before airplanes and are therefore considered to be the first way of reaching for the skies.

Hot air balloon safaris are quite common in various parts of the world, including India, the US, and several others. The safari is wonderful as the visitors enjoy calming rides to float around the sky on a pleasant sunny day. The beautiful sky view presents people with the unique opportunity to relax and unwind as they see the birds-eye view of their destination.

The riders feel closer to the sky and the clouds. Some people might feel jittery at first because the balloon swings a bit as the wind takes it higher, but in totality, it is an absolute delight. In many counties, glass-bottom hot air balloons are used. These balloons are scarier to travel in as you constantly feel like you are going to fall.

Because it is a floating transport, it is important to ensure that not many people travel in it at once. The balloon must be kept as lightweight as possible and visitors are often made aware of the maximum weight and the number of things that they can carry with them to the balloon. The entire experience is mesmerizing.

After reading these interesting facts on the history of the hot air balloon, also check facts on how do hot air balloons work and what are balloons made of.


The discovery of the first hot air balloon created history as it brought the concept of humans flying in a basket with an open flame. The first free flight was discovered by a French scientist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier.

  • Helium or hydrogen was let into the compartment of the balloon to give it a bounce and make it carry the basket below. As the hydrogen balloon rises, it stays in the air for about 15 minutes till the air supply continues.
  • The first balloon reached the height of 5,280-6,600 ft (1,609.3-2,011.6 m) on its maiden flight. The first flight took place in 1783. This flight contained animals instead of risking the lives of humans.
  • The first manned flight took place in 1783. This flight took place from Paris. It was an Italian diplomat, Vincenzo Lunardi, who in 1784 created the concept of romance in a hot air balloon that exists even today.
  • In 1785, the concept of airmail gained popularity as the first individuals crossed the English channel safely on it.
  • It was several years later, in 1793, that the first flight in America took place. This balloon flight took place in North America and flew to New Jersey. It was only in 1836 that a long-distance flight took place. The manned flight used this balloon envelope to fly from London to Weilburg in Germany. This flight took around 18 hours to complete.
  • Soon in 1870, the Franco-Prussian War came into being and it was decided that these hot aircraft gas balloons would be used to observe the military movements. At that time, the French minister planned his escape in this heated air balloon. 1906 saw the rise in the use of hot air balloons for recreational games.
  • The use of this balloon as a sport was stopped only during Second World War, but resumed soon after.
  • In 1914, a new record was set as the balloon traveled from Germany to Russia.
  • In the same year, the use of these balloons was even seen in World War One. These airborne lanterns flew to the Stratosphere for the first time in 1931. The basket was made of metal and hydrogen was filled into the airborne lanterns.
  • The hydrogen balloon reached 54,156 ft (16,506.7 m) in 1932.
  • Then in 1960, the hot air balloon that we know today, that is the modern hot air balloon, was developed. As Edward Yost invented the concept and use of propane burners, the gas balloons turned into hot air balloons, as they flew across Nebraska, USA. Then in 1961, a height of 113,775 ft (34,678.6 m) was reached by the balloon.
  • It was later in 1970 that new systematic material was used to create a more stable and reliable hot air balloon. This was the first time in balloon history that ballooning world championships were held in 1973.
  • Then in 1978, the first transatlantic balloon flight took place with the balloon filled with helium gas. This balloon flew from the US to France and took 8,226 minutes to complete the journey. Sir Richard Branson in 1987, flew the largest balloon across the Atlantic. Richard Brandson and his accomplice broke the record as they covered this distance in just 33 hours.
  • In 1991, Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand crossed the Pacific, from Japan to Canada breaking previous records.
  • In 1999, it was the first time that an around the world trip had been completed on a fuel-air balloon. 2002 recorded the first free flight ever without multiple pilots. Pilots in 2005 recorded a flight at 69,852 ft (21,290.8 m), making it the highest ever.
  • In the same year, a solo woman tried to complete her balloon flight but was sadly unsuccessful, although she did not lose her life in the accident.
  • Even though the attempt was not successful, it was regarded as an important point in the history of hot air balloons and hugely encouraged. Apart from this, Vijaypat Singhania flew up to 69,852 ft (21,290.8 m) in a 160 ft (48.7 m) tall hot air balloon with a sitting cabin inside it.
  • In 2006, the Guinness world record was set as a girl band performed inside a balloon while floating in the sky, approximately 6,063 ft (1,848 m) above Wiltshire.
  • In 2008, concerts were held in the sky. Virgin Radio and Sony BMG hosted a gig on national radio, leaving their mark for the wide nationwide coverage.
  • In 2009, Mark Shemilt set a new record by keeping the Virginian balloon afloat for the longest period of time, hanging above the Alps. He exceeded the previously recorded time by 452 minutes. He made another groundbreaking record in 2010, as he flew 120 mi (193 km) one way.
  • The sky looked lovely as 329 balloons ascended the sky at once in 2011. It set the world record for the greatest number of balloons to take flight together. And then later in 2016, the fastest solo trip around the world was completed by a Russian priest. He was recorded to complete the entire trip in 11 days.


The materials used to create hot air balloons have changed over time, mostly in order to make the balloon more stable and have greater strength to carry passengers and some goods to longer distances.

  • The hot air balloon tied to the ground assists in evaluating the materials initially used to make the envelope and the kind of fuel used.
  • Cotton, nylon, and polyester are the most commonly used materials. The cotton envelope does not have the ability to reach great heights as it is not lightweight.
  • Instead, modern balloons tend to use urethane-coated nylon to cover the balloon, ensuring safe and fast balloon flight.
  • The balloon flight is greatly influenced by the size and weight of the materials used in its making.
  • Polyester is also a good choice as its lightweight and durable structure enables the air inside to carry it freely and easily.
  • Hot air balloon history has been continuously marked with changes in materials to ensure that the best and most suitable materials are only used.
one of the most famous inventions

Importance In History

The timelines presented above provide a good picture of the importance these balloons have had in the history of inventions.

  • The journey began with unmanned balloons flying in the air and then there were individuals who successfully crossed the English channel with some modifications made to the air balloon.
  • Then Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand were recorded to cross the Atlantic and make a new record. This time, however, they had used helium-powered balloons instead of the traditional gas.
  • The use of these balloons in military signaling and their participation in World War One was also a major historical event. Then towards the more modern times, the materials used improved and the hot air balloon was powered by fuel, making it faster and more persistent in flying higher.

Amazing Facts On Hot Air Balloon History

The history of hot air balloons is filled with fun facts and inspirations of relentless efforts and undying faith.

  • Zhuge Liang, a military strategist of China was the first one to invent hot air balloons back in the third century. It was like an airborne lantern and could be seen from far away, ensuring proper military signaling for the Chinese.
  • The first successful launch in the 18th century carried animals and not humans, making them the first ones to fly on the balloon. It included sheep, a rooster, and a duck.
  • Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, after completing his first successful balloon flight, took his colleagues and decided to cross the English channel, however, the balloon caught fire and they all died.
  • Hot air balloons were used in major wars.
  • Presently, glass-bottom balloons have also come into existence which presents a beautiful new experience of flying in the sky.
  • Hot air balloons are commonly flown and enjoyed on sunny days. They cannot be flown in the rain. Even though modern hot air balloons are made to be durable and stable, there are still limitations to their flight.
  • The balloon flight goes out of control in the rain, making it difficult to navigate.
  • All the water makes it heavy as the droplets settle down on the surface of the balloons, making it harder to keep them afloat. Apart from this, it will also be difficult to truly be able to enjoy sightseeing in heavy rain. Even light rain poses a problem as it too will settle on the balloon and increase its weight.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for hot air balloon history then why not take a look at science facts, or air and space museum facts.

Written By
Supriya Jain

<p>As a skilled member of the Kidadl team, Shruti brings extensive experience and expertise in professional content writing. With a Bachelor's degree in Commerce from Punjab University and an MBA in Business Administration from IMT Nagpur, Shruti has worked in diverse roles such as sales intern, content writer, executive trainee, and business development consultant. Her exceptional writing skills cover a wide range of areas, including SOP, SEO, B2B/B2C, and academic content.</p>

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