The aircraft family (flying machines) is composed of:
Aerostat (Hot air balloons and gas filled balloons) - lighter-than-air craft supported by their own buoyancy.
Aerodyne (All other aircraft) - heavier-than-air non-buoyant aircraft that require a source of power to hold them aloft and to propel them.
The hot-air-balloon, (montgolfier) is a bright multicoloured and majestic hot air bubble drifting serenely in the sky according to the wind direction. The intrepid aeronauts are aboard its wicker basket, while the chase crew remains on the ground to pick them up after the landing with a 4x4 vehicle and a trailer to store the equipment.
Do you know that hot-air-balloons are the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology?
It was invented by the Montgolfier brothers, papermakers in Annonay, Ardèche (France), who had noticed that the bonfire smoke had been inflating their shirts hanging to dry on a clothesline.
Step by step, the Montgolfier brothers succeeded in making a small 3 cubic meter balloon fly, on December 14, 1782, heated with wet straw and wool.
The first « inhabited » flight (with a sheep, a duck and a chicken) took place on September 19, 1783. It took off from Versailles in the presence of the King Louis XVI and the royal court. The first manned flight took place on November 21, 1783, with Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquess of Arlempdes on board.
Nowadays balloons are no longer made of paper and fabric; they are made of nylon or polyester. They are no longer heated with wet straw and wool but with propane burners.
In the large lighter-than-air balloon family (aerostat), in addition to hot air balloons (montgolfiers), there are also:
- Gas balloons, invented by the physicist Charles (hence the name charliers). The first gas balloon manned flight took place in Paris on December 1st, 1783, a few days after Pilâtre de Rozier’s flight. Gas balloons enabled Gambetta and many Parisians to escape when Paris was besieged in 1870. The gas used was hydrogen, hazardous because highly inflammable. Nowadays hydrogen is usually replaced by helium, a neutral gas, but rare and much more expensive.
- Gas/hot air hybrid balloons, invented by Pilatre de Rozier, (hence the name rozier). One of the most famous examples is the Breitling Orbiter, the balloon of the Swiss physicist Bertrand Piccard, who completed a trip around the world in 20 days in 1999.
- Of course we must not forget dirigibles, which can navigate in the mass of air which bears them. Formerly dirigibles were inflated with hydrogen, which caused the big Hindenberg Zeppelin catastrophe in 1937. Nowadays, there are still dirigibles, but they are safe, as they are inflated with helium. The most famous dirigible is the Goodyear balloon.