10 fun facts about hot-air ballooning to mark anniversary of first English Channel crossing

A rooster, duck and sheep were the first hot-air balloon passengers

A rooster, duck and sheep were the first hot-air balloon passengers

First published in News

TODAY was the day in 1785 when the first English Channel balloon crossing took place.

Frenchman Jean-Pierre Francois Blanchard and American John Jeffries completed the trip in a hydrogen balloon in two-and-a-half hours.

It got a bit hairy when they were forced to chuck ballast, equipment and even clothing overboard to avoid landing in the icy waters.

To celebrate the feat, which also coincided with the first occasion a letter was delivered by airmail, here are 10 fun facts about ballooning:

  • A rooster, duck and sheep were the first living creatures to fly in a hot-air balloon in 1783. The balloon flew on a tether, rising to 1,500 feet and travelling two miles before being brought back to the ground. The animals survived, though the rooster suffered a broken wing.
  • The tradition of serving champagne after a hot-air balloon flight originated in the 18th century as a way of appeasing French farmers who didn’t much like balloons landing in their fields and crushing their crops.
  • A duel took place over Paris in 1808 when two men involved in a love triangle with an opera dancer blasted each other hot-air balloon out of the sky. One man was killed while the other survived.
  • In 1991 Per Lindstrand and Richard Branson become the first people to pilot a balloon across the Pacific. Travelling 6,700 miles in 46 hours at speeds of up to 245mph, they flew from Japan to Arctic Canada.
  • The first successful circumnavigation of the world in a balloon took place in 1999. Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones left from Switzerland and landed in Egypt just shy of 20 days later.
  • Hot-air balloon cannot be flown in the rain due to fears of the fabric being damaged if rainwater reaches boiling point from the temperature inside the balloon.
  • Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot-air balloon flight in November when he reached 69,850ft.
  • Abraham Lincoln set up the Balloon Corps during the American Civil War. It had seven balloons which were used to spy on enemy movements.
  • Up to around 100 years ago travelling fairs used smoke balloons to give visitors a thrill. A daredevil was strapped to a balloon which was shot into the air. The stuntman would then detach, open a parachute and descend to the ground.
  • If you think standing in a wicker basket thousands of feet in the air is scary, imagine standing in a glass box. Christian Brown showed off his glass-bottom hot-air balloon at the 2010 Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. Apparently, passengers were “shrieking and screaming in fear” by the end.

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