The history of ballooning, both with hot air and gas, undisputedly the first form of flight undertaken by man, spans many centuries. It includes many firsts, including the first human flight, first flight across the English Channel, first flight in North America and first aircraft related disaster.
The first documented balloon flight was by the Brazilian-Portuguese priest Bartolomeu de Gusmão who, on 8 August 1709 in Lisbon, managed to send aloft about four metres a small balloon made of paper filled with hot air.
More well-known was the Montgolfier brothers' first publicly demonstrated unmanned hot-air balloon, the Aerostat Reveillon which on 19 September 1783 with a sheep, duck and rooster on board was sent aloft and travelled a fair distance before descending and landing with the animals unharmed.
The first untethered, free flight with human passengers onboard was on 21 November 1783 when, with a smoky fire heating the air of the balloon, de Rozier and the Marquis François d'Arlandes travelled just over five miles during their 25 minute flight.
In South Africa, balloons were used extensively by the British during the Anglo Boer Wars. However, it was not until 1976 that ballooning as a sport took off in SA with the arrival in South Africa of Terry Adams. Terry is generally acknowledged as the Doyen of Ballooning in South Africa and who has since his arrival, established the mainstay of balloon manufacturing and pilot training in SA.
On the 10th October 2020, after many months after postponement since C-19 forced us to all go into hiding, the Aero Club's official Centenary Balloon Launch took place at Bill Harrop's Balloon Safaris in the Magalies Valley.
Thus, with its place in the history of human flight secured it, was fitting that on 10 October 2020 BAFSA was the first of the Aeroclub's sections to lead the celebrations of the Club's Centenary celebrations when a specially designed Centenary Balloon was launched.
It did not end there though. One of the smaller sections of the Aeroclub, BAFSA's presence at the celebration at Middelburg dwarfed and shamed many of the larger sections. Six balloons, including the Centenary version and with weather permitting, took to the sky most mornings and showed the skills of the pilots who mostly landed at the field, much to the delight of all.
Present at the Centenary Celebrations were: Richard Bovell, ZS-HDE, Hanke Fourie and Martyn Evers who all flew the Centenary balloon, ZS-HOI. On Tuesday, Felicity Clegg and Trevor Fabbraio in ZS - HYJ got airborne along with Dave McGregor in ZS-HCY as well as Mario and Theresa Fabbraio in ZS-HOK, who drove up from Mossel Bay. Alan Turner in ZS-HHO was another KZN resident who drove to Middelburg to be part of the celebrations.
After all these years there is still just a special magic associated with these stately, colourful giants as they silently and majestically float along.
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