France, a country that has enjoyed more than 2000 years of sporting history, is experiencing a resurgent interest in hot-air ballooning. The sport, which is steeped in French history, is attracting people from all walks of life as centres have opened throughout France, giving both tourists and nationals alike, the chance to take to the skies in a varied program of flights and tours.

The 4th July 2003 marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a pioneer balloonist who made the first gas balloon crossing of the English Channel on the 7th January 1785.

Historically, France has offered the world many 'firsts' in many different spheres and it comes as little surprise, therefore, to learn that the same can be said for her achievements in the area of both gas and hot-air ballooning. To understand France's accomplishments in both ballooning and, to some extent, the world of aviation, we need to go on a journey reaching back to 250 years ago.

Jean-Pierre Blanchard was born in Petit Andelys, France and, from an early age, showed an inquisitive mind that was interested in how things worked, often experimenting with his own inventions. While still a boy he began to create a variety of unusual contraptions, including a rat trap with a pistol, a velocipede, and later a hydraulic pump system that could raise water to 400 feet (122 meters) from the Seine River to the Château Gaillard. He also, unsuccessfully, tried to develop a manually powered aeroplane and helicopter and, during the 1770's, worked on designing a flying machine that was based on the theory of rowing in the air currents with oars and tiller. He was a man with an imaginative and innovative mind, who was far ahead of his time. However, what Blanchard is famous for was his success with the gas balloon. continue...

In a flight lasting a mere five hours, Indian aviator Dr. Vijaypat  Singhania has claimed a new absolute altitude record for  hot air balloons by flying his Cameron 160 to an altitude of 69,852 feet. The flight took place on November 26, 2005. Once approved by the FAI, this record will break the pervious record of 64,997 feet set in 1988 by Per Lindstrand.  Dr. Sindhania was committed to making the flight from his home country of India for national pride reasons. His flight launched from the Polo Grounds, Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai at 6:39 am and took about 2 hours and 14 minutes with an average ascent speed 600 to 700 ft. per minute. Having created history by bringing the world record to India, Dr. Singhania safely landed at Sinnar, between Shirdi and Nashik at 11.

:300 a.m. He achieved this record overhead of Ulhasnagar, a central suburb on the outskirts of Mumbai. FAI records incorrectly note that the Lindstrand record was set in Plano, Texas when in fact Lindstrand’s flight launched from a south Texas cattle ranch just a few miles outside of Laredo, Texas.

 “When I broke the record, I was euphoric. I dreamed quite loudly,” he said. “This goes to show to the world that we are not bullock cart drivers, but we can compete against the best of the world,” Singhania told the crowd that gathered around the balloon after landing. The flight was broadcast live on Indian television.

Many in India compare the 67-year old Dr. Singhania to Steve Fossett of the U.S. Dr. Sindhania is an adventurer, sportsman, multi-millionaire textiles business man, and a pervious aviation world record holder. He has been an aviator for 40-years and has logged over 5000 hours flying time. He has received multiple aviation honors in his home country of India.

He was flying a huge Cameron Z-1600 balloon with a capacity of 106 million cubic feet. The whole structure measured 160feet in height.

The record attempt had taken 12 months to organized by UK-based Flying pictures. Alan Noble from Cameron Balloons was the flight Director.

The burners, used kerosene rather than the more conventional propane fuel.  After landing the balloon envelope was released and then flew on its own for a further eight hours before landing.

  Landsrand’s record will remain a world record for the AX14 size as Singhania’s balloon was a AX15.

 Copied with permission of Balloon Federation of America

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