A model of the Montgolfier brothers’ balloon at the London Science Museum.
The brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier developed a hot air balloon in Annonay, Ardeche, France, and demonstrated it publicly on September 19, 1783, making an unmanned flight lasting 10 minutes.
After experimenting with unmanned balloons and flights with animals, the first balloon flight with humans aboard, a tethered flight, performed on or around October 15, 1783, by Jean-Francois pilatre de Rozier who made at least one tethered flight from the yard of the Reveillon workshop in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
Later that same day, Pilatre de Rozier became the second human to ascend into the air, reaching an altitude of 26 m (85 ft), the length of the tether.
The first free flight with human passengers was made a few weeks later, on November 21, 1783.
King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, but de Rozier, along with Marquis François d’Arlandes, petitioned successfully for the honor.
The first military use of a hot air balloon happened in 1794 during the battle of Fleurus, when the French used the balloon for observation.
Here’s a gallery of beautiful air vehicles of the past
Pax, a colorful airship, constructed by a Brazilian inventor named Augusto Severo. The inventor was killed in Paris in 1902 when the airship rose steeply and exploded. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)
USS Los Angeles, upside down after a turbulent wind from the Atlantic, Lakehurst, New Jersey, 1926 (AP)
R101, a British airship completed in 1929, crashed on 5 October 1930 in France during its very first overseas voyage. 48 of the 54 people were died on board.
A Guardian photographic highlight:
On 21 May 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
She had meant to fly to Paris but bad weather and mechanical problems forced her to land in a field near Londonderry, Ireland. “After scaring most of the cows in the neighborhood,” she said, “I pulled up in a farmer’s back yard.”