Montgolfier Day – 21 November

236 Years since the first balloon flight! The 21st November marks the 236th Anniversary for the first untethered hot air balloon flight. This most certainly is a celebrated date on the ballooning calendar. The hot air ballooning community is rather small in South Africa; considered a speciality flying skill (different to the requirements of being a “fixed wing” pilot).

There are a myriad of festivals over the world which celebrate and the art of hot air ballooning. But in order to understand and appreciate the “sport”, one has to understand why Montgolfier Day is so significant.

About The Montgolfier Brothers

French physician Jean-François Pilatre de Rozier and François Laurent, the marquis d’ Arlandes, make the first untethered hot-air balloon flight, flying 5.5 miles over Paris in about 25 minutes. Their cloth balloon was crafted by French papermaking brothers Jacques-Étienne and Joseph-Michel Montgolfier, inventors of the world’s first successful hot-air balloons.

For time immemorial, humanity has dreamed of flight. Greek mythology tells of Daedalus, who made wings of wax, and Leonardo da Vinci drew designs of flying machines and envisioned the concept of a helicopter in the 15th century. It was not until the 1780s, however, that human flight became a reality.

The first successful flying device may not have been a Montgolfier balloon but an “ornithopter”–a glider-like aircraft with flapping wings. According to a hazy record, the German architect Karl Friedrich Meerwein succeeded in lifting off the ground in an ornithopter in 1781. Whatever the veracity of this record, Meerwein’s flying machine never became a viable means of flight, and it was the Montgolfier brothers who first took men into the sky.

Joseph and Étienne Montgolfier ran a prosperous paper business in the town of Vidalon in southern France. Their success allowed them to finance their interest in scientific experimentation. In 1782, they discovered that combustible materials burned under a lightweight paper or fabric bag would cause the bag to rise into the air. From this phenomenon, they deduced that smoke causes balloons to rise. Actually, it is hot air that causes balloons to rise, but their error did not interfere with their subsequent achievements.

On June 4, 1783, the brothers gave the first public demonstration of their discovery, in Annonay. An unmanned balloon heated by burning straw and wool rose 3,000 feet into the air before settling to the ground nearly two miles away. In their test of a hot-air balloon, the Montgolfiers were preceded by Bartolomeu Lourenço de Gusmão, a Brazilian priest who launched a small hot-air balloon in the palace of the king of Portugal in 1709. The Montgolfiers were unaware of Lourenço’s work, however, and quickly surpassed it.

On September 19, the Montgolfiers sent a sheep, a rooster, and a duck aloft in one of their balloons in a prelude to the first manned flight. The balloon, painted azure blue and decorated with golden fleurs-de-lis, lifted up from the courtyard of the palace of Versailles in the presence of King Louis XVI. The barnyard animals stayed afloat for eight minutes and landed safely two miles away. On October 15, Jean-François Pilátre de Rozier made a tethered test flight of a Montgolfier balloon, briefly rising into the air before returning to earth.

The first untethered hot-air balloon flight occurred before a large, expectant crowd in Paris on November 21. Pilátre and d’Arlandes, an aristocrat, rose up from the grounds of royal Cháteau La Muette in the Bois de Boulogne and flew approximately five miles. Humanity had at last conquered the sky.

The Montgolfier brothers were honored by the French Acadámie des Sciences for their achievement. They later published books on aeronautics and pursued important work in other scientific fields.

Which country is famous for hot air balloon?

Turkey. The Most Incredible Hot Air Balloon Rides Around the World. CappadociaTurkey, is famous for its unique rock formations and incredible hot air ballooning opportunities.

How long do hot air balloon rides last? How long are flights?

On average, passenger flights are approximately one hour in length. Some flights can vary from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on the amount of fuel on board, the passengers’ combined weight, the temperature of the air and when the pilot finds a suitable landing field.

Do you get motion sickness in a hot air balloon?

Riding in a hot air balloon is not a terribly rocky experience. The basket hardly sways, so it definitely doesn’t merit a sea-sickness treatment, unless you’re prone to motion sickness. If you can handle a car ride, you should be fine hot air ballooning.

Can a bird pop a hot air balloon?

The bird doesn’t have the capability to fly through the fabric. Basically nothing happens when a bird hits a hot air balloon. First of all a balloon is pretty big and pretty slow. So it’s nearly impossible to surprise a bird with a balloon.

What are the parts of a hot air balloon?

The hot air balloon consists of three parts: envelope, basket, and burner system.

Can a hot air balloon fly in rain?

In good weather, hot air balloons are the safest form of flying. A skilled pilot will be able to land a balloon in the rain, but because of the risks, will never fly if it is raining or rain is forecast.

What is the top part of a hot air balloon called?

The Envelope: The gores expand at the top (called the “crown”) and taper at the bottom (the “skirt”) as it gets closer to the basket. This shape helps keep the hot air in the balloon.

A hot air balloon for manned flight uses a single-layered, fabric gas bag (lifting “envelope”), with an opening at the bottom called the mouth or throat. Attached to the envelope is a basket, or gondola, for carrying the passengers.

First man to fly around the world

After six attempts Steve Fossett became the first person to fly around the world, alone and without stopping, in a hot air balloon. He launched the Balloon Spirit of Freedom from Western Australia on the 19th June 2002 and 14 days, 19hours and 50 minutes later he landed back in Australia.

It is no secret that without the Montgolfier brothers (and their successful flight) humans would have waited even longer to master other forms of air travel.

Come out for the morning and join us on a majestic hot air ride in the Magalies River Valley, with Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris.

Scenic flights depart at sunrise from Bill Harrop’s traditionally exquisite and beautifully appointed Clubhouse Pavilion and Restaurant in the Magalies River Valley in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site bordering Gauteng and North West Province.

“If you’re going to do it – do it in unassailable style. Its sunrise, the silence of flight is punctuated only by the occasional blast of the powerful burners and the faint call of a bird or animal far beneath. The thrill is indescribable.

You’re hovering gently above the tree tops of the beautiful Magalies River Valley, or drifting majestically high above the Magaliesberg range in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site, just 45 km north of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, a region boasting some of the best ballooning weather in the world. The exceptional peace of this unique and almost supernatural view of the world will forever remain as a truly cherished memory.

After landing, savour a delectable and generous champagne breakfast at our well established, traditionally exquisite and beautifully appointed Clubhouse, Pavilion and Restaurant, where you’ll be filled with the warmest of memories.”

Book your once, or more, trip of a lifetime now!


Office Mobile: +27 83 457 3402 / +27 83 443 2661 / +27 83 443 2662

Field Operations: +27 83 776 5875


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