Long before the Wright brothers flew the first Flyer in 1903, humans were flying high in the sky. Another pair of brothers, the Montgolfiers of France, invented the hot air balloon in 1793. A hot air balloon’s “envelope”—the balloon bag—holds heated air, which is less dense than the surrounding cold air and causes the balloon to rise. The balloon travels by catching wind currents, and pilots can adjust altitude by blasting hot air or releasing air through a vent.
Today, people ride hot air balloons for recreation and the peaceful joy of rising calmly in the sky. Many balloon pilots participate in competitions, which generally involve racing or aiming for targets.
Hot air balloons can reach very high altitudes, and pilots flying at more than 12,500 ft. are required to carry oxygen. While traditional balloons have a teardrop shape, there are balloons of all different shapes. There are plenty of opportunities to catch a balloon ride with private companies or at balloon festivals across the country. The famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta welcomes more than 700 balloons each October. Other long-running balloon festivals take place in Canberra, Colorado Springs, Reno and Quebec.
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