Virgin flight

6th February 1998 at 00:00
(Photograph) - November 21, 1783 and Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent, marquis d'Arlandes, set off on the first ever manned flight (following the successful test flight in September with a sheep, a rooster and a duck). They will go 3,000 feet up in the air, travel 16 kilometres from Paris and land after 23 minutes. They are propelled by a mysterious force which the brothers Montgolfier, who designed the balloon, call "levity" and which is fed by a smouldering fire of wool and straw.

January 29, 1998 and Andy Elson climbs on top of Breitling Orbiter 2, remaining outside for 20 minutes at a height of 5,000 feet before sealing himself inside his craft's capsule. The balloon soars to 25,000 feet in Mr Elson and his crew's attempt to be the first balloonists to circumnavigate the globe.

Hot air, as we now know, rises, but Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier were paper manufacturers who had watched burning paper fly up a chimney and thought to harness the "levity" of smoke with an "aerostatic globe" of varnished fabric and paper. Their balloon flew on choking smoke, stoked by labouring aeronauts.

In December 1783, the physicist Jacques Charles successfully released a manned balloon inflated with the newly isolated gas, hydrogen. It glided without smoke. Henceforth, all balloons would be hydrogen ones, until the fire of the German airship "Hindenburg" in 1937 proved that hydrogen's explosive qualities were too hot to handle.

Mr Elson, Richard Branson and others use helium. But perhaps their motives are not so different from those of the first aeronauts. The original Montgolfier plan was for condemned criminals to test the effects of altitude; Pilatre and Laurent protested that such men were not worthy of the glory. Says Mr Elson's mother, "He's always been an adventurer."

Victoria Neumark

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now