Hot air ballooning has to be one of the most elegant ways to take in the landscape and experience flight. Little has changed since the first balloons were invented in the 18th century, yet there is something timeless and deeply charming about ascending above the earth in a basket attached to a brightly coloured balloon. Melbourne on the Move offers luxury hot air ballooning experiences over Melbourne and to celebrate this unique aeronautical tradition, we’ve found five interesting facts about ballooning.
- The hot air balloon is the oldest form of human flight
The hot air balloon was invented in France in 1783 by the Montgolfier brothers. The first passengers to fly in a hot air balloon were a duck, a rooster and a sheep. The balloon was flown over the French court in Versailles with a crowd of 130,000 onlookers, including Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI.
- Balloons have been used extensively during wartime
Unmanned air balloons were used for military signalling in China during the Three Kingdoms period between 220-280 AD. In the west, hot air balloons were used to give a bird’s eye view over the battlefield for the purpose of intelligence gathering. The first time the hot air balloon was used for military purposes was during The Battle of Fleurus in 1794.
- The ‘balloon’ part of the hot air balloon is actually called an envelope
Typically made out of nylon, the envelope inflates with a mixture of propane and air heated to around 120°Celsius. The balloon rises because the hot air inside the envelope has a lower density than the cold air outside it. The record for the highest balloon flight is over 21,000 meters, or about 2.3 times the height of Mt Everest.
- In 1808, there was a balloon duel above the streets of Paris
Two highborn men decided to settle their rivalry over a celebrated over a celebrated opera dancer by trying to shoot each other’s balloons out of the sky above the Tuileries gardens. On the appointed day, the balloons rose up to a height of 900 meters and the signal to shoot was given. The first man to shoot missed his target but the second successfully managed to puncture his opponent’s balloon which quickly deflated and plummeted to the ground, killing both the dueller and his second. The victor returned to the ground safely, although how he fared with his lady remains a mystery.
- The post flight champagne tradition was invented to placate farmers
It’s traditional to have a champagne toast upon landing a hot air balloon and there is even a specific toast known as ‘The Balloonists Blessing’. Legend has it that the tradition was begun by French aristocrats in the early days of ballooning, who used champagne to appease frightened onlookers and irritated farmers when they landed in their fields.