In the footsteps of Montgolfier

Flight video: Video HD, flight Montgoffier du perigord

Joseph Montgolfier a French paper manufacturer in Annonay born in 1740 had like so many others at that époque a passion for machines. Joseph and his younger brother Etienne often dreamed of human flight. They imagined to capture the clouds in an envelope and so to lift a basket. However they did not know how to realise this idea.


One day Joseph was holding his shirt by the collar over the fireplace, and noticed that the shirt lifted upwards. He knew immediately that this was the answer to his dream , and concluded that hot air is lighter than cold air, it could in this way lift something heavy. He shared his discovery with Etienne and both began to think of which material could be used to build a balloon for their first experiments.

For starters, they choose a globe of one cubic meter made out of silk.

The birth of the aerostatic flight.

November 1782, the brothers filled the first balloon with hot air produced by an open fire , and it took off thirty meters high.

Versailles France, 19 September 1783; the first real balloon was demonstrated to Louis XVI. A flight with for the very first time passengers: they had boarded a sheep, a rooster and a dog. The animals were recovered 3 kilometers further away, after a flight of 8 minutes. Later the experiment was successfully repeated with a human passenger .


In December of the same year, they continued their experiments with a balloon of 3 m3, then in April 1783 with a 800 m3 balloon that rose 400 m above sea level.

Until then, they had been working secretly in their garden, but as the altitude flights increased, they were afraid that their neighbors would discover their experiments and steal the idea, so they decided to organize a public flight of their balloon on the main square of Annonay, in front of trustworthy people who were their witnesses to certify that the Montgolfier were at the origin of the idea.


They constructed a flask of 900 m3 made of cotton sewn on paper.

On June 4 1784, the new balloon was tied down on two farmhouses with a basket under need. Filled with straw and wool. When enough heat was generated to lift the balloon, they cut the ropes and the balloon took off, rising up to 10000m. About ten minutes later, it landed in a field and began to burn because of the residual heat in the basket.

Peasants noticed this strange craft that came from heaven, and were surprised and shocked. They stood there ” as nailed to the ground”  and did do nothing to extinguish the fire.

The prototype was completely destroyed by fire. However witnesses certified its authenticity and the Montgolfier brothers could write to the Academy of Sciences to be officially declared as the first to have built a flying object.


More then 200 years later, we flew in a similar hot air balloon. Propelled and lifted by burning gas. Floating over the Perigord…Moments of absolute tranquility, disrupted by burst of roaring fire , left to nature where the wind is your worse enemy or you best friend….

Thanks for reading


4 thoughts on “In the footsteps of Montgolfier

  1. Pingback: In the footsteps of Montgolfier | Shooting Phase One

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