Lighter than Air **** by David Owen
I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera~
And Jenny Matlock for Alphabe-Thursday~ this week’s letter assignment is the letter H~ for Hot-Air Balloon.
We went to the Carolina BalloonFest several weeks ago which was a first for me! It’s held annually within a 40 minute drive from our lake house. We attended the Saturday morning Launch & Competition, but there is also a Balloon Glow event as well as a Mass Ascension, that would be fun to attend next year. It was a crisp, clear fall morning~ perfect weather & conditions for the stable winds needed for balloon flight. With Alphabe-Thursday in mind I took PLENTY of photos and for Food for Thought, I worked in reverse, taking photos, and THEN finding a book with thoughts to cook :-)
Come along with me for a fun-filled flight, a little balloon history and ballooning-inspired food & beverage~
There has always been a sense of romanticism linked to balloons~ they glide seemingly without effort and soundlessly among the clouds. . .until. . . the propane burner is blasted, which we discovered early one fall Saturday morning sleeping with the windows open. Quite a rude awakening, we thought the house was coming down around us, jolted awake by the roar of the burners as balloon floated overhead :-)
The history of balloon flight is often underestimated, as are the fascinating scientific breakthroughs than can be attributed to it. Lighter than Air details the history of balloon flight from the Montgolfier brothers’ initial attempts, and chronicles the events, and often misfortunes that befell the very early balloonists. From as early as 1783, balloons had a wide appeal and were used from show business to espionage. Lighter than Air explores the hey-day of transatlantic travel, to more recently the renaissance of competition ballooning.
While present-day airplanes are constructed from specialized materials, ranging from stainless steel, duralumin, and carbon-fiber composites, the first lighter-than-air flights occurred in scarily fragile structures of wood, wire, silk, and paper~ harnessing the energy of heavy, cumbersome and dangerous furnaces burning mixtures of wool, straw, and even rotten meat. Theories as to why flight was possible were entirely wrong, nevertheless these pioneers persevered, attempting great challenges.
The story begins more than 200 years ago, further back than Dec. 17th, 1903 when the Wright Brothers ushered in the dawn of heavier-than-air flying. . .
The Montgolfier brothers are credited with inventing the hot-air balloon.Word of their achievement quickly reached Paris, and the brothers’ claim to the invention of flight was put to the test by demonstration on Sept. 19, 1783. King Louis XVI of France thought balloon flight too dangerous so the balloon was launched with a sheep, a duck and a rooster as passengers. The sheep was believed to have a reasonable approximation of human physiology. The duck chosen since it was expected to be unharmed by being aloft and included as a control for the effects created by the aircraft rather than the altitude. The rooster was included as a further control since it was a bird that did not fly at high altitudes.
Before a crowd at the royal palace in Versailles, with King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in attendance. the flight was judged a success. It lasted only eight minutes, covered two miles and reached an altitude of about 1,500 feet before its descent due to a split in the fabric.While the wicker basket had broken open during the fall through the trees, the sheep & duck were unharmed. The rooster suffered a damaged wing that seemed to be unrelated to the fall, since an eyewitness claimed to have seen the sheep kicking the rooster on the balloon’s ascent :-)
At the very beginning of the ballooning age, the army of Revolutionary France formed a balloon corps, using hydrogen balloons to spot enemy movements.
During the Civil War in the United States, most balloonists signed on with the Union Army. Operating fully inflated balloons, that required a gas main for inflation, then towed around the countryside, proved to be problematic. One such balloon crossing the Potomac, was seized by a gust of wind and torn from the hands of the balloon party. Loaded down with ammunition to use on enemy positions from the air, it drifted toward Confederate territory, making it necessary to shoot down, to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.
By the late 1950’s with the introduction of jetliners resulting in a sudden boom in long-distance air travel, lighter-than-air flight began to seem obsolete. The style and luxury of the huge, rigid airships had perished in the flames of the Hindenburg, and even the smaller, more practical nonrigid blimps had outgrown their military applications.
The Rebirth of the Hot-Air Balloon is credited to the US Air Force– concerned with rescuing downed pilots over hostile territory where a plane or helicopter rescue would be impossible. PASS, Pilot Aerial Survival System, was based on providing each crew member the materials necessary to make a small hot-air balloon, capable of lifting one person to an altitude where they could then be rescued by a slow-flying plane or helicopter. A contract was awarded to a company, Raven Industries, with the goal to design a reusable balloon to lift a man to the height of 10,000 feet with the ability to fly for three hours. Using the principles the Montgolfiers employed, they perfected the balloon envelopes, discovered liquid propane in pressurized containers as fuel, and made improvements with coiled stainless steel tubing for vaporizing gas to inflate balloons quickly and to provide height control. While the DIY hot-air balloon as a part of an aircrewman’s escape kit never progressed, developers realized that as a result of their research, they had invented the first economical sporting balloon.
Our morning was spent at the Carolina BalloonFest watching the competition that involved the balloons trying to navigate to hit a mark on the ground, by dropping or throwing a small sandbag with a colored streamer, coming close as possible to the marked spot. Challenging, with balloons drifting downward at the speed of the wind, searching for the right flying height to take advantage of wind currents to reach closest to the mark. The Autism Balloon, #32 was the clear winner, able to actually come down far enough to drop his marker within mere feet of the target. It looks like cheating until you realize the skill and expertise involved to negotiate the wind and fly that closely towards your target :-)
A common tradition among balloonists is to have a champagne toast upon landing with the roots of the tradition reaching back to the 1780’s. . .
Terrified villagers or farmers reacted violently to the sight of the thrashing envelope which became a target for pitchforks, scythes, and muskets~ cut or torn to pieces. Early French aeronauts carried champagne to appease angry or frightened spectators at the landing site and the champagne convinced the farmers that they were not in fact demons and acted as an apology for disturbing the land and animals grazing in the field.
A Champagne Brunch for your after Balloon Flight for Food for Thought. . .
A festive way to get your morning vitamin C after your high-flying adventure :-)
A champagne toast is now often included in commercial sight-seeing flights. Many balloonists recite the Balloonist’s Blessing (also known as ‘The Balloonist’s Prayer’) with the champagne toast:
The winds have welcomed you with softness
The sun has blessed you with its warm hands
You have flown so high and so well
That God has joined you in your laughter
and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth.
Cream Cheese-Banana-Nut Bread, recipe courtesy Southern Living, here
Maybe a Chocolate Croissant to go with your Mimosa?
Some Quiche. . .
Croissant French Toast with Strawberry Syrup, recipe here.
I’ll leave you with a video slide show I uploaded of a balloon being inflated and finally airborne~ I didn’t have any luck syncing it to the song below when I was uploading it so you can play the song below as you watch :-)