If you’re an aircraft enthusiast, you’re going to love these mind-blowing hot air balloon facts. Enjoy this rare trivia, and then take a hot air balloon ride.
Most people know what a hot air balloon is, but have you ever wondered how these beautiful aircrafts came to be?
There’s such an interesting history behind hot air balloons that’s worth reading up on regardless of whether or not you’d like to ride in one. However, you should definitely take a hot air balloon ride if the opportunity ever presents itself!
Even if you’ve already taken many a ride in these lovely baskets, you should take some time to learn a few hot air balloon facts. Growing your knowledge of these balloons will make your experience riding in them and/or looking at them from below that much more enjoyable.
Here are 10 interesting hot air balloon facts you should know!
1. The First Pilots Were Almost Criminals
The first hot air balloon was invented in the late 1700’s in France. During that time, the French government was big on using executions on criminals.
As such, the king figured it would make sense to put two criminals in charge of the first hot air balloon flight. He thought that if the flight went poorly, the two men would have died anyway so there would be no loss in the matter.
But somehow, the king was convinced otherwise and two French scientists became the first pilots instead. The flight was a success and the men returned to land safely.
2. One of the Actual First Pilots Died in Another Hot Air Balloon
Although the first flight went well for the two French scientists, one of them was not so lucky later on. Jean-Francois Pilatre De Rozier loved that flight so much that he continued to fly hot air balloons regularly. He came to be a well-known hot air balloon pilot in addition to being a highly recognized scientist.
One day, he decided to attempt crossing the English Channel from France to England in a hot air balloon. But, he wanted to see what the flight would be like in an aircraft that was powered in part by hot air and by hydrogen, too.
This didn’t go well for De Rozier. He became the first victim of a fatal hot air balloon accident.
3. The French Used Hot Air Balloons in Battles
The hot air balloon was mostly something the wealthy people of France would use for entertainment, and soon after, other countries caught on. The French also used their hot air balloons in battle, though!
They would take a few balloons out to their soldiers’ camps and raise them up to spy on incoming enemies. The birds-eye view was thought to give the French an advantage as they took note of how their attackers would set up their men.
4. The American Civil War Had a “Balloon Corps”
Abraham Lincoln knew a thing or two about hot air balloon facts and was inspired by their use of them in battles – to the point that he created a Balloon Corps during the American Civil War.
Lincoln thought this would give the Union a valuable advantage in battles. The Balloon Corps was used to spy on incoming enemies, but only for a short while. The Confederates figured out how to make a hot air balloon of their own, and they started sending men to shoot down the balloons of the Union.
The Balloon Corps was soon disbanded.
5. Hot Air Balloons Have a Chase Crew
Hot air balloons may not be used in battle anymore, but they do have a chase crew. This is a team of people who follow the hot air balloon on land. It’s made of only one or two individuals.
The real importance of a chase crew is that the team is driving a vehicle big enough to bring the basket and deflated balloon back to their original destination. The chase crew also gives passengers of the balloon a ride back.
6. Drinking Champagne Is Tradition After Landing
Going back to the times of the French, it was customary for them to share a few glasses of Champagne after a trip in a hot air balloon. This tradition continues today. It’s an added touch that many hot air balloon enthusiasts and first-time riders enjoy.
7. Richard Branson Co-Piloted the Longest Hot Air Balloon Flight
You may know Richard Branson as the man behind Virgin Airlines (as well as other Virgin companies). But, Branson has dabbled in many a business venture and adventurous hobbies in his time.
In 1991, he co-piloted the longest recorded hot air balloon flight. The voyage was the first to cross the Atlantic, traveling from Japan to Canada. It lasted about 46 hours total, and it was actually the second cross-ocean journey Branson had completed in a hot air balloon. The first was his flight across the Pacific in 1987.
8. There’s a Glass Bottom Hot Air Balloon
Traditionally, hot air balloons are made with large baskets to hold passengers comfortably as they stand and enjoy the view. Branson’s was much more complex for his cross-ocean journeys, and there are some other variations out there as well.
One of the most interesting is arguably the glass bottom hot air balloon. As if looking out to the world below you isn’t good enough from a standard hot air balloon, a glass bottom takes this to an entirely different level. It may not be ideal for the faint of heart, but it is an amazing experience.
9. The Biggest Hot Air Balloon Festival Is in New Mexico
You can see everything from glass-bottom baskets and interesting balloons at hot air balloon festivals. There are many of these events hosted all over the world, but the biggest is in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
This festival hosts an average of 700 hot air balloons every year!
People come from far and wide to pilot their balloons and to be a guest on one as well. Many also enjoy the view from below and all kinds of other activities are available on land, too.
10. Hot Air Balloons Have No Steering
The final hot air balloon fact is that they don’t technically have steering. In a standard hot air balloon, the way to navigate is to use weather predictions and fly with the wind.
Pilots turn the air burners on/off throughout flight to get to where they want to go and to land safely. It’s an intricate control system that takes lots of practice and patience to learn.
Other Hot Air Balloon Facts That Will Blow You Away!
Here are a few more interesting hot air balloon facts you should know:
- the first hot air balloon took flight in 1783
- 3 animals were the first passengers, not people
- it’s not safe to fly a hot air balloon in the rain
- the champagne tradition mentioned above originated as an act of peace
As interesting as all of these facts are, you’re sure to appreciate them more once you’ve actually been in a hot air balloon yourself. There’s really nothing else like it, and there’s no better opportunity than at a hot air balloon festival!
The next time a festival comes to your area, make sure you go. You won’t regret it.