Two French brothers named Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier are the fathers of hot air ballooning. They were paper makers that noticed that bits of paper were carried up into the air when they burned paper. They held little paper bags over a fire to fill them with the smoke that they thought caused them to rise. When they let go, the bags would float up and fly away. The two brothers made larger fabric bags and attached a platform. The air was kept hot with a smoky fire built on the platform suspended under the balloon. The first “balloonists” to fly were three farm animals ( a sheep, a duck, and a rooster) that flew for about 20 minutes and a distance of 3 kilometers.
On November 21, 1783, a balloon built by the Montgolfier brothers carried two French noblemen, Marquis d’Arlandes and Piltare De Rozier, on the first manned trip into the sky above Paris. The flight lasted 25 minutes and covered about 13 kilometers.
The first American balloon flight was in Philadelphia in January 1793 by Jean Blanchard. He carried on board a letter of introduction from George Washington – making it the first air mail to be carried in the United States.
The first modern hot air balloon, fueled by propane, was built by Ed Yost in 1953 using a plumber’s blow torch. The availability of lightweight and efficient sources of heat to warm the air in the balloon sparked a renewed interest in hot air ballooning. The first hot air balloon company that sold balloons in which people could ride was formed in 1956. That company is now called Aerostar International, Inc. Windrifter is an Aerostar, Rally 7 balloon.