Balloon Museum Visit was a Flight of Fancy for LCOC Members

One of the big attractions in the Albuquerque area is the opportunity to enjoy hot air ballooning. In fact, the annual Balloon Festival was held just a week ahead of the LCOC Western National Meet Oct 17-21.  While the ballooning experience was not on our agenda, a visit to the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum was among our meet activities.  After a cold and nasty day previously, the museum visit took place on a crystal clear morning where the views were endless.

A group of LCOC members and their cars journeyed there and the large open parking lot afforded excellent picture-taking opportunities.  

The museum itself offered a fascinating history of ballooning beginning in the 18th century.  The earliest pioneers were the French, and even Louis XVI, husband of Marie Antoinette, got into the act.

We learned that ever since 1783, when humans first flew using them, balloons have been used for everything from scientific discovery to recreation. At the museum, we heard about world-record parachute jumps, notable female aeronauts, the tragic and triumphant history of the craft, and the use of balloons in wars ranging from the Civil War to World War II. 

Wikipedia reports that the first clearly recorded instance of a balloon carrying (human) passengers used hot air to generate buoyancy. It was built by brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier in Annona, France. These brothers came from a family of paper manufacturers and had noticed ash rising in paper fires. The Montgolfier brothers gave their first public demonstration of their invention on June 4, 1783. After experimenting with unmanned balloons and flights with animals, the first tethered balloon flight with humans on board took place on October 19, 1783 with the scientist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon and Giroud de Villette, at the Folie Titon in Paris.

The first untethered, free flight with human passengers was on 21 November 1783. King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, but de Rozier, along with the Marquis François d’Arlandes, successfully petitioned for the honor. For this occasion the diameter of the balloon rose to almost 50 feet with a smoky fire slung under the neck of the balloon placed in an iron basket, it was controllable and replenishable by the balloonists. In 25 minutes the two men traveled just over five miles. Enough fuel remained on board at the end of the flight to have allowed the balloon to fly four to five times as far, but burning embers from the fire threatened to engulf the balloon and the men decided to land as soon as they were over open countryside.

Albuquerque remains a center for ballooning and many societies and clubs perpetuate the activity locally. The museum boasts replicas of the first balloons. Actual balloons and gondolas used in historic flights are also on view. Off in the distance we saw a few actual balloons and hang gliders enjoying the activity.  Our visit was most certainly a flight of fancy!

For more photos of this event click here.


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