Monthly Archives: November 2012

The first manned flight was 229 years ago

Mongolfier balloon first mannd flightWith the successful demonstration at Versailles, and again in collaboration with Réveillon, Étienne started construction of a 60,000-cubic-foot (1,700 m3) balloon for the purpose of making flights with humans. The balloon was about seventy-five feet tall and about fifty feet in diameter. It had rich decorative touches supplied by Réveillon. The color scheme was gold figures on a deep blue background. Fleur-de-lis, signs of the zodiac, and suns with Louis XVI’s face in the center interlaced with the royal monogram in the central section graced the majestic machine. Red and blue drapery and golden eagles were at the base of the balloon. It is fitting that Étienne Montgolfier was the first human to lift off the earth, making at least one tethered flight from the yard of the Réveillon workshop in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. It was most likely on October 15, 1783. A little while later on that same day, Pilâtre de Rozier became the second to ascend into the air, to an altitude of 80 feet (24 m), which was the length of the tether.

Pilatre de RozierOn 21 November 1783, the first free flight by humans was made by Pilâtre, together with an army officer, the marquis d’Arlandes. The flight began from the grounds of the Château de la Muette (close to the Bois de Boulogne (park)) in the western outskirts of Paris. They flew aloft about 3,000 feet (910 m) above Paris for a distance of nine kilometres. After 25 minutes, the machine landed between the windmills, outside the city ramparts, on the Butte-aux-Cailles. Enough fuel remained on board at the end of the flight to have allowed the balloon to fly four to five times as far. However, burning embers from the fire were scorching the balloon fabric and had to be daubed out with sponges. As it appeared it could destroy the balloon, Pilâtre took off his coat to stop the fire.