A brief history of the first untethered hot-air balloon flight



The first public demonstration of a balloon by the Montgolfier brothers took place in June 1783 and was followed by an untethered flight of a sheep, a cockerel and a duck from the front courtyard of the Palace of Versailles on 19 September.

The French King Louis XVI decided that the first manned flight would contain two condemned criminals, but de Rozier enlisted the help of the Duchess de Polignac to support his view that the honour of becoming first balloonists should belong to someone of higher status and d'Arlandes agreed to accompany him. The King was persuaded to permit d'Arlandes and de Rozier to become the first pilots.

After several tethered tests to gain some experience of controlling the balloon, de Rozier and d'Arlandes made their first untethered flight in a Montgolfier hot air balloon on 21 November 1783, taking off at 1:54 p.m. from the garden of the Ch‚teau de la Muette in the Bois de Boulogne, in the presence of the King. Also watching was U.S. envoy, Benjamin Franklin. Their 25-minute flight travelled slowly about 5Ĺ miles (some 9 km) to the southeast, attaining an altitude of 3,000 feet, before returning to the ground at the Butte-aux-Cailles, then on the outskirts of Paris. After the flight, the pilots drank champagne to celebrate the flight, a tradition carried on by balloonists to this day.

D'Arlandes proposed a flight to cross the English Channel in 1784, but the plan came to nothing.



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