Yesterday, my wife and I had an amazing opportunity to ride in a hot air balloon. What a fantastic experience! If you’ve never done it, I really recommend it (assuming you’re not afraid of heights). Our balloon lifted off just after dawn, and within a few short seconds we had a spectacular 1,000 foot view of Camarillo’s rolling hillsides and neatly aligned orchards.
The balloon we rode in was a Lindstrand 90A and perfectly suited for 3-4 people. I was amazed at how quiet it was in the balloon. As we silently drifted over residential areas I could hear barking dogs, cars and even people talking below. The experience was so cool! Our flight lasted about an hour, but it seemed as though it lasted only 10-15 minutes. Towards the end of our flight, we started looking for a safe place to land. It was at that point that our pilot (Peggy) informed us that hot air balloons can’t always control where they land. Peggy’s comment would prove to be prophetic. After failing to find any open fields in our flight path, Peggy decided to land the balloon on a nearby high school football field – just as football practice was initiating! While I never expected to land on a football field, I must say the landing was perfectly smooth. The football players got a big kick out of watching us land and then helping secure the balloon. This image was taken after we landed and the balloon was deflating. You can see the silhouettes of the football team helping to hold the balloon in place while the last of the hot air escaped.
After our flight was over, our pilot invited us to participate in a traditional champaign toast to celebrate the successful flight. During the toast, our pilot shared a brief history of the hot air ballon. I thought the information was really interesting and want to share some of it with you:
*** The first clearly recorded instance of a balloon carrying passengers used hot air to generate buoyancy and was built by the brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier in Annonay, France. After experimenting with unmanned balloons and flights with animals, the first tethered balloon flight with humans on board took place on October 15, 1783. It is fitting that Etienne Montgolfier was the first human to lift off the earth, making at least one tethered flight from the yard of the Reveillon workshop in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. It was most likely on October 15th, 1783. A little while later on that same day, Pilatre de Rozier became the second to ascend into the air, to an altitude of 80 feet, which was the length of the tether. The first free flight with human passengers took place on November 21, 1783. Due to the inherent danger involved, King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, but de Rozier, along with Marquis François d’Arlandes, successfully petitioned for the honor.
The first military use of a hot air balloon happened during the battle of Fleurus where the French used the balloon l’Entreprenant as an observation post.