November in Aviation History

Nov 21, 1783 A balloon made of cloth and paper* by brothers Jacques-Étienne and Joseph-Michel Montgolfier made the first free hot-air balloon flight. It was piloted by Jean-François Pilatre de Rozier and François Laurent, the marquis d’ Arlandes. After previous successful manned and unmanned tethered demonstrations by the Montgolfiers, (including one test flight that carried a sheep, a duck, and a rooster), this was the first untethered flight. The 60,000 cubic foot balloon was about seventy-five feet tall and about fifty feet in diameter. The flight (which happened to be witnessed by Benjamin Franklin), reached a height of about 3000 feet, and flew about 9 kilometers in 25 minutes before being forced to land when burning embers threatened to destroy the balloon.

The development of gas balloons proceeded almost in parallel with the work of the Montgolfiers. On 1 December of 1783, Jacques Charles and Nicolas-Louis Robert flew the first manned hydrogen balloon, for 2 hours 5 minutes and covered 36 km. Jacques Charles immediately flew again, alone, and ascended to 3,000 meters. Work on each type of balloon was spurred on by the knowledge that there was a competing group and alternative technology. Interest in hot air balloons was largely superseded by gas balloons over the following decades. But with the advent of nylon balloons and propane burners in the 20th century, hot air ballooning has grown to the popular sport that it is today.

*The Montgolfier family operated a paper manufacturing business that had its beginnings in the sixteenth century. The Montgolfier Company later became Montgolfier et Canson, then Canson & Montgolfier, and still operates under the name Canson with a world market in fine art papers, drawing papers and photography papers.


Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park 

16 S. Williams St., Dayton, OH 45402

Visitor Center:

For details and seasonal date schedules see

or please call (937) 225-7705 for the current park schedule.

See the Visitor Center page for details on hours and for a map.


From W. Third St., turn south on Williams St and then turn left on Fourth St. Go 1/2 block and turn left into the Visitor Center parking area.

CLICK HERE for a parking map.

Travel Note - Third St. Bridge closure:

The Third Street Bridge will be CLOSED beginning Jan. 1, 2020 until approximately Oct. 2021. Visitors can use the Fifth St. Bridge or the Salem Ave. Bridge as detours from downtown Dayton. A file with more detailed instructions for visitors traveling from the north or south via I-75, or from the east and west via US35 can be downloaded by CLICKING HERE.


Aviation Trail, Inc.

- In Partnership with the National Park Service


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