Virgin Balloon Flights are celebrating a big birthday today. So big in fact we’re having a little blog party. That’s right, hats and party blowers at the ready – ballooning is 230 years old today.

On November 21 1783 the first untethered balloon flight carrying human passengers was launched from the hill of La Muette over the city of Paris.

The balloon was manufactured by the Montgolfier brothers in Annonay. Inspired by watching ash rise in paper fires, the brothers hoped that the energy resulting from this process could be used to power something on a bigger scale.

Despite the success of previous ‘test’ flights, King Louis XVI was concerned that the free flying balloon posed a high safety risk to passengers. The King decreed that condemned criminals would pilot the balloon. Facing eventual execution, the thought of risking a balloon flight was probably a more favourable option for most offenders.

This plan was revised - instead of sending two criminals, the King agreed that keen aeronauts Jean- François Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis François d’Arlandes would pilot the balloon. On this day 230 years ago, the two men travelled five miles in 25 minutes over the city of Paris.

Reports say that d’Arlandes was overwhelmed by nerves during the flight. Convinced that the balloon was going to catch fire, he implored his co-pilot to promptly land. Calmly accepting his requests, Pilatre brought the balloon down. Upon landing, the pair realised that the balloon was perfectly safe and held enough fuel to travel five times as far.

So there we have it, the Montgolfiers clinched themselves a place in the history books with the first ever manned, free flying hot air balloon flight.

Here’s one for the fact fans - the word ‘Montgolfier’ is used by balloonists to describe the standard teardrop shape of the balloon envelope.

Happy birthday ballooning! Piece of cake anyone?

If you’d like to join our party and book your first ever balloon flight call 01952 212750 or visit