Between the months January and February, a convergence of different aviators from all over the world would happen in the Philippines to witness the hot air balloon festival in Pampanga. In fact, it has been regarded as one of the Philippines’ biggest and most popular tourist events. As the biggest aviation sports event in the Philippines, this affair would usually last around three to four days at the Omni Aviation Complex in Clark Freeport Zone of Angeles City, Pampanga. Apart from the hot air balloon fiesta, the festival features events such as micro light and rocketry demonstrations, skydiving, as well as small plane fly-bys and fly-ins, so every individual has something to enjoy. Undoubtedly, though, the hot air balloon remains to be the heart of this entire affair.
So, when you are planning to visit this once-in-a-year occasion or are just curious about hot air balloons, it would bode you well to know some little-known yet fun facts about this up and coming favorite aviation sports event.
1.) The first hot air balloon passengers were farm animals
The maiden flight of the very first hot air balloon in 1783 was set to fly over the French court in Versailles in the presence of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. In a similar fashion to having monkeys in space, a selection of animals was chosen to test the effects of the flight. As a result, a sheep, duck, and rooster were hosted in its very first flight. It was thought that the sheep would show the effects of altitude on a land dweller, while ducks and roosters which are already capable of flight would act as controls in the experiment. The balloon rose to 1500 feet in the air and lasted eight minutes.
2.) The first pilots were almost condemned criminals
Louis XVI disliked the idea of being responsible for any potential fatalities when it came to choosing a pilot for the hot air balloon’s first flight. As a result, he wanted an expendable, so he selected a condemned criminal to fly the balloon. However, he was eventually convinced that the idea was not exactly very feasible. Instead, Jean-Francois Pilatre De Rozier and an aristocrat were chosen to fly the balloon for twenty minutes.
3.) There used to be a balloon duel
In the 1800s, the French believed in settling their differences in a rather peculiar way. When two Frenchmen were entangled in a love triangle with a celebrated opera dancer, they took their dispute to the skies above Paris for a duel. Both men aimed at each other’s balloons and after a while, shots were fired. One balloon was punctured resulting in its crash to the buildings below and the death of its occupants. The other balloon and its occupants were unharmed.
4.) An offering of champagne after flights was used to appease farmers
Though hot air balloons were becoming increasingly popular with the French aristocracy, the local farmers were not so receptive and were rather resentful when the balloons landed on their farmlands. The French aristocrats propagated the belief that farmers were scared of the balloons as they have a resemblance to dragons considering that smoke was used to power them. However, it was a lot more seemly that the farmers disliked having the hot air balloons destroying their crops. To appease them, champagne was used as a peace offering and a tradition was born.
5.) There is a glass-bottomed balloon
Christian Brown wanted to add a different edge to hot air balloon flights; he wanted people to be able to experience the skies above as well as survey the world below and so, the glass-bottomed hot air balloon was born in 2010. Imagine flying over land and seeing everything right beneath you. For some, it would be an exhilarating and thrilling experience, but some individuals might prefer to stay rooted in the ground as it is not for the faint of heart and people with acrophobia.