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Statistics & Trivia

Did You Know?

Hot air balloons have been taking people on amazing adventures for hundreds of years! Everybody loves watching the colorful balloons fly through the air. But very few people know about its exciting history, fascinating ballooning facts, and incredible world records. After reading the below information, take the Trivia Challenge!

* Note: This is just a sample of the fun back matter found in Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon. Purchase the book to have even more adventures!


Fascinating Facts!

  • In September 1783, a French scientist launched the first “modern” hot air balloon. But the basket had some very unusual passengers riding inside: a sheep, a duck, and a rooster! The balloon soared in the air for 15 minutes before crashing back to earth.

  • Several months later, two Frenchmen became the first humans to pilot a balloon. They launched the balloon in the middle of Paris and flew for 25 minutes, traveling a distance of 5½ miles. 

  • From the very start, pilots used wicker reeds when building their passenger baskets. A main reason for this is that wicker reeds are strong, lightweight, and absorb shock during landings.

  • Sophie Blanchard is the most famous woman balloonist. Beginning in 1804, this French woman made more than 60 ascents. Many of these flights were for Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor at that time.


World Records

  • The first balloon launch in America was in 1793. George Washington, the first president of the United States, watched this famous liftoff from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He even wrote a letter for the pilot to carry with him on the flight. The letter asked anyone who saw the balloon land to provide help to the pilot. This letter became the first piece of “Air Mail” in America.

  • The first around-the-world hot air balloon flight was in 1999. Two pilots flew the Breitling Orbiter 3, a dual helium / hot air balloon, 29,055 miles in 19 days, 21 hours, and 55 minutes.

  • The highest anyone has ever flown a hot air balloon is 68,986 feet. That’s double the cruising altitude of a jet airplane.


The “Rise” of Ballooning Popularity

  • Ed Yost is recognized as the “Father of the Modern-Day Hot Air Balloon.” He developed the balloons’ distinctive “teardrop” shape. He also used the invention of lightweight burners and propane fuel to reheat the air inside the envelope. He took the first flight in his new and improved hot air balloon in 1960. After Yost’s success, propane became the most popular heat source for hot air balloons. 

  • To pilot a balloon, you must have a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. You must also be at least sixteen years old, have ten hours of flying time, and pass a practical knowledge test.

  • These days, the nylon balloon fabric can be crafted into unusual shapes. Some of the most fun and creatively shaped hot air balloons include a space shuttle, a birthday cake, a piggy bank, and Disney’s Cinderella's castle.

  • In the United States, the largest balloon festival takes place each year in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Over 500 balloons take flight during the festival (though not all launching at the same time).

Trivia Challenge

Based on the facts you just read, see how many of these trivia questions you can answer correctly. Are you “up” for the challenge?


  1. The first passengers in a “modern” hot air balloon were

    • the president and vice president of Spain.

    • a scientist and an inventor.

    • a sheep, a duck, and a rooster.

  2. President ___________ watched the first balloon launch in America.

    • George Washington

    • Abraham Lincoln

    • Ronald Reagan

  3. A wicker basket is the preferred material used to carry passengers. This is because wicker

    • looks great in pictures.

    • is strong and absorbs shocks.

    • makes a whistling sound in the wind.

  4.  The most popular heat source used in today’s hot air balloons is ___________.

    • solar

    • propane

    • coal

  5. The first balloon that soared around the world was the Breitling Orbiter 3. How long did this flight take?

    • 9 days

    • 19 days

    • 39 days


1) sheep, duck and rooster

2) George Washington

3) strong and absorbs shock

4) propane

5) 19 days

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