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Presently, balloons are one of the safest and most spectacular means by which to take to the skies. Balloon rides have accrued a reputation for being the perfect vacation activity. Whether you're looking to drift into the sunset on a romantic endeavour, or experience the thrill of a mass launch into the azure sky, rides have something to offer everyone whether young or old.
Balloons have come a long way since their invention in France in the late 1700's. The first hot air balloons was designed by Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier, and was constructed out of paper and cloth. It took to the heavens with three unique passengers aboard it - a duck, a rooster and a sheep! The first piloted balloon was launched in the same year, an event which came to be known as one of the aeronautical engineering highlights of the century.
Following a few brief highlights, the ballooning industry then entered a dark age for over a century. Then, in the 1960's a company by the name of Raven Industries patented a design for the first ever modern hot air balloon, and balloons were once again restored to their early glory.
These days, manufacturers are constantly competing to see who can create the most sophisticated balloon. All hot air balloons generally consist of three distinct parts - an envelope, a burner and a basket. The difference between them lies in the materials used to construct the envelope, the number of burners used and the shape and size of the basket attached to the balloon. Currently, the largest basket can hold in excess of twenty passengers as well as a pilot, although the majority of baskets are built to take between 6 and 16 people.
In the last fifty years, the sport of ballooning really has taken off significantly. Ballooning festivals and fiestas are becoming more and more popular, as are races and other competitive events. Festivals such as Albuquerque and Plano draw crowds from around the globe, all of them eager to be a part of the excitement and festivity. Balloon races such as the Helen to Atlantic and the Great Reno Balloon Race are equally as popular with spectators and pilots alike as is The Gordon Bennett Cup which has been around for almost a century.
There really is something quite magical about balloons. Perhaps it has something to do with human beings innate desire to take to fly, or maybe it is the fairytale quality that hot air balloons have always had. Regardless, few can argue that the sensation of floating off into the wide blue yonder with the sun tickling your skin and the wind guiding your path is one that cannot easily be beaten.