The initial pioneering official documentation of a balloon trip transporting real people, rather than animals, utilised warm air to create a floating chamber and was created by the French Montgolfier brothers. This feat took guile, courage and engineering expertise.
The French siblings owned a factory that produced cardboard and paper products. They had witnessed burnt paper moving up into the atmosphere above bonfires and had a light bulb moment.
The Montgolfier siblings held a demonstration to show off their floating contraption to the French people in 1873, during the summer. They first put animals in the balloon and tested flight times, height to heated air ratios and the effects of probable prevailing winds. In October 1783, the first public flight with 4 passengers was performed in Paris to great acclaim. However the balloon was secured by several ropes.
The first unsecured foray was in November of the same year and the ruling monarch Louis 15th had ordered that the passengers would be convicted felons, which seems a bit unfair. However, an aristocrat and an engineer persuaded the authorities to allow them to be the first passengers in an unsecured balloon flight.
A metal basket swung beneath the balloon and the pilots could vary the height of flight by reducing or increasing the fire. The balloon, or Montgolfiere, ascended to a height of approximately 30 metres and the crowd cheered and stared in awe. They travelled over 8 kilometres and only landed in a wheat field due to the driving fire getting uncontrollably large due to cross winds. The first manned balloon flight was a triumph!
Of course nowadays we can fly for hours with great accuracy in direction and height. We have advanced flying instruments and radios, but the principle is still the same. Hot air rises and it can contained in a tight balloon, that balloon will also rise – it’s just pure physics.