Tag Archives: Lighter-Than-Air

9–10 October 1900

The 1900 Paris World's Fair, before the start of the balloon race.
L’Exposition Universelle de 1900 à Paris (the 1900 Paris World’s Fair), before the start of the balloon race. (Parisienne de Photographie)

9–10 October 1900: The Aéro-Club de France held a long-distance balloon race, coinciding with the World’s Fair and Olympic Games. Six balloon teams competed for the Grand Prix, including that of Henri François Joseph, Comte de la Vaulx, and Joseph Félix Georges, Comte de Castillon de Saint-Victor, co-founders, along with several others, including Jules Verne, of the Aero Club.

From the American Monthly Review of Reviews, Vol. 23, January–June 2001, beginning at Page 609 :

M. le Comte, Henri de la Vaulx, 1908. (Agence ROL)

Of the six balloons entered for this record-breaking race, the Centaur was one of the smaller, its dimensions being 1,630 cubic meters, while its chief competitor, the St. Louis, measured 3,000 cubic meters. The Centaur rose from the grounds at Vincennes at 20 minutes past 5 in the afternoon of October 9. From Count de la Vaulx’s account of the journey, which appears in Pearson’s for April, we glean the following facts:

“Our direction at the start was north-north-east, and very soon, the sun having gone down, Paris was nothing for us but a vast, vaguely defined patch of luminosity far to the west. The Centaur was in equilibrium at about 5,000 feet [1,524 meters] above the sea-level, when the moon rose with such a radiant brilliance that we could read all our instruments without the aid of the electric lamp. Every now and then a shooting star traversed the vault of heaven, inciting us to wish for the success of our enterprise. . . .”

Count de la Vaulx described the route of the flight, the cities and landmarks that they passed over, the weather and temperatures at various altitudes. At several times during the race, they were in sight of another balloon, the larger St. Louis.

Centaur ascended as high as 22,000 feet (6,706 meters) and experienced temperatures as low as -12 °C. (10 °F.) The changes in air temperature caused the gas in the balloon to expand and contract, and it rose and fell as the density of the gas varied.

Having expended their supply of breathing oxygen, the two aeronauts opened the balloon’s vents to descend closer to the ground. Their anchor rope caught in some trees and Centaur came to earth shortly thereafter.

Map of the 1900 balloon race
Map of the 1900 World’s Fair balloon race

La Vaulx and Saint-Victor had landed near Korostyshiv, Ukraine. The two counts had traveled 1,153 miles (1,856 kilometers) in 35¾ hours.

Having crossed the Russian frontier without passports, the two gentlemen were held in custody for four days before being allowed to return to France by train.

Participants of the 1900 balloon race. Left to right: The Comte de Castillon de Saint-Victor, G. Hervieu, Jacques Balsan, J. Faure, the Comte de La Vaulx, G. Juchmes and L. Maison. (Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

8 October 1958

The Project MANHIGH III balloon and gondola, shortly after launch at Holloman AFB, 1151 UTC, 8 October 1958. (Al Fenn/LIFE Magazine)
The Project MANHIGH III balloon and gondola, shortly after launch at Holloman AFB, 6:51 a.m., 8 October 1958. (Al Fenn/LIFE Magazine)

8 October 1958: At Holloman Air Force Base, southeast of Alamogordo, New Mexico, the Project MANHIGH III balloon was launched at 6:51 a.m., Mountain Standard Time (13:51  UTC). The helium balloon lifted a 1,648 pound (748 kilogram) pressurized gondola. Inside was Lieutenant Clifton Moody McClure III, U.S. Air Force.

Over the next three hours, the balloon ascended to an altitude of 99,700 feet (30,389 meters)¹ over the Tularosa Basin.

From this altitude, “Demi” McClure radioed to Dr. David G. Simon, who had flown a previous MANHIGH mission, “I see the most fantastic thing, the sky that you described. It’s blacker than black, but it’s saturated with blue like you said. . . I’m looking at it, but it seems more like I’m feeling it. . . I have the feeling that I should be able to see stars in this darkness, but I can’t find them, either—I have the feeling that this black is so black it has put the stars out.”

The purpose of the MANHIGH flights was to conduct scientific research through the direct observations of the pilot while in contact with ground-based scientists and engineers, and to gather physiological data about the stresses imposed on a human body during extreme high altitude flight.

Lieutenant Clifton M. McClure, U.S. Air Force (1932–2001)
1st Lieutenant Clifton Moody McClure III, United States Air Force

Lieutenant McClure was born at Anderson, South Carolina, 8 November 1932, the son of Clfton M. McClure, Jr., a bookkeeper (who would serve as a U.S. Marine Corps officer during World War II) and Frances Melaney Allen McClure. He attended the Anderson High School, graduating in 1950. He earned a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering and a master’s degree in ceramic engineering from Clemson University. He had been an instructor pilot, flying the Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star jet trainer, at air bases in Texas, but was then assigned to the Solar Furnace Project at Holloman AFB.

Prior high-altitude balloon flights had shown the need for extreme physiological fitness, and McClure was selected through a series of medical and physical evaluations similar to those that would later be used to select astronaut candidates for Project Mercury. He was considered to be physiologically and psychologically the best candidate for MANHIGH flights.

The MANHIGH III balloon was manufactured by Winzen Research, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota. It had a capacity of approximately 3,000,000 cubic feet (84,950 cubic meters) and was filled with helium.

The gondola was built of three cast aluminum cylindrical sections with hemispherical caps at each end. It was 9 feet (2.743 meters) high with a diameter of 3 feet (0.914 meters). Inside were cooling and pressurization equipment ,and equipment for various scientific experiments.

Lieutenant McClure wore a modified David Clark Company MC-3A capstan-type partial-pressure suit with an International Latex Corporation MA-2 helmet for protection. He breathed a mixture of 60% oxygen, 20% nitrogen and 20% helium.

During the flight, Lieutenant McClure became dehydrated. Later, temperatures inside the gondola rose to 118 °F. (47.8 °C.). The cooling system was unable to dissipate heat from McClure’s body, and his body core temperature rose to 108.6 °F. (42.6 °C.). After twelve hours, it was decidede to end the flight. MANHIGH III touched down a few miles from its departure point at 2342 UTC, 9 October 1958.

After his participation in Project MANHIGH, Clifton McClure applied to become an astronaut in Project Mercury. He was turned down because his height—6 feet, 1 inch (1.854 meters)— exceeded the limits imposed by the small Mercury space capsule. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the MANHIGH III flight. He later flew Lockheed F-104 Starfighters with the South Carolina Air National Guard.

Clifton Moody McClure III died at Huntsville, Alabama, 14 January 2000, at the age of 67 years.

Lieutenant Clifton M. McClure, USAF, seated inside the MANHIGH III gondola. (U.S. Air Force)

¹Sources vary. A NASA publication, Dressing For Altitude, cites McClure’s maximum altitude as 98,097 feet (29,900 meters) (Chapter 4, Page 162). The Albuquerque Tribune reported McClure’s altitude as 99,600 feet (30,358 meters), (Vol. 36, No. 163, Saturday, 11 October 1958, Page 7 at Column 6. The National Museum of the United States Air Force states 99,700 feet (30,389 meters). 99,700 feet is also cited in Office of Naval Research Report ACR-64, “Animals and Man in Space,” 1962.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

8 October 1883

Tissandier
Gaston Tissandier (left) and Albert Charles Tissandier (Fine Art America)

8 October 1883: The first airship powered by an electric motor was flown by brothers Albert-Charles Tissandier (1839–1906) and Gaston Tissandier (1843–1899) at at Auteuil, a suburb of Paris, France.

The brothers were experienced aeronauts, having designed and built a number of balloons.

Gaston Tissandier described the event in La Nature:

     From the end of September the gas apparatus was ready to operate., the balloon was stretched out upon the ground, under a long movable tent, so that it could be at once inflated; the car and motor were stored away under a shed, and my brother and I awaited fine weather in order to perform our experiment.

     On Saturday, the 6th, a high barometer was noted, and on Sunday, the 7th, the weather became fine, with a slight wind, and we therefore decided that the experiment should be made the next day, Monday, October 8.

     The inflating of the balloon was begun at 8 o’clock in the morning, and was continued uninterruptedly until half-past two in the afternoon. This operation was facilitated by the equatorial cords which hung from the right and left of the balloon, and along which were let down the bags of ballast. These cords are shown in Fig. 2, which gives a front view of the balloon. The aerial ship having been completely inflated, the car was at once fixed in place along with the ebonite reservoirs, each containing 30 liters of acid solution of bichromate of potash. At twenty minutes past three, after piling up the ballast in the car and balancing the latter, we slowly ascended into the air through a slight E.S.E. wind.

     At the surface the wind was nearly null, but, as frequently happens, it increased in velocity with altitude, and we ascertained by the movement of the balloon over the earth that it attained at a height of 500 meters a velocity of 3 meters per second.

     My brother was specially occupied in regulating the ballast in order to keep the balloon at a constant altitude, and not far from the surface of the earth. The balloon hovered over the earth very regularly at a height of four or five hundred meters. It remained constantly inflated, and the gas in excess escaped through expansion by opening, under its pressure, the lower automatic safety valve, the operation of which was very regular. . .

At thirty-five minutes past four we effected our descent upon a large plain in the neighborhood of Croissy-sur-Seine, where the maneuvers connected with landing were performed by my brother with complete success. We left the balloon inflated all night, and, on the next morning, it was found not to have lost the least quantity of gas, but was as fully inflated as on the preceding eve. . . .

—Translation of La Nature article published in Scientific American Supplement, Vol. XVI., No. 416, 22 December 1883, at Pages 6632–6634

This engraving by E.A. Tilly depicts Albert Tissandier (left) and Gaston Tissandier (right) in the gondola of their airship. A an unidentified third man is above. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

The Tissandier brothers’ dirigible was the first to be powered by electricity. A 1.5 horsepower Siemens electric motor, turning 180 r.p.m., drove a two-bladed propeller through a reduction gear, producing 26 pounds of thrust (116 newtons). 24 bichromate of potash (potassium bichromate) cells provided electricity for the motor, which propelled the airship at 3 miles per hour (4.8 kilometers per hour).

The airship was 28 meters (91 feet, 10 inches) long with a maximum diameter of 9.2 meters (30 feet, 2 inches). Its gas capacity was 1,060 cubic meters (37,434 cubic feet). The total weight of the airship, with “two excursionists,” instruments and ballast, was 1,240 kilograms (2,734 pounds).

Scientific American described the airship:

“. . . It was constructed by Mr. Albert Tissandier, who very happily replaced the usual netting by a suspension covering formed of ribbons sewed to the longitudinal elliptical strips, according to the geometrical diagram. This suspension covering is fixed upon the sides of the balloon to two flexible rods which accurately adapt themselves to its form from one extremity to the other, and keep the entire affair in shape. To the lower part of the suspension covering there is attached a netting that terminates in twenty suspension ropes which support the car by its four upper corners.

     “The car is in the shape of a cage and is constructed of bamboos, which are strengthened by cords and gutta-percha-covered copper wires. The suspension ropes are connected together horizontally by a ring formed of cordage fixed two meters above the car. To this ring, which distributes the traction equally during a descent, are attached the stoppage apparatus—the guide rope and the anchor-line. The rudder which consists of a large surface of unvarnished silk held in place by a bamboo rod, is also fitted to the stern. Teh car contains the motor, which is formed of 24 bichromate of potash elements that actuate a Siemens dynamo which is connected with the helix through the intermedium gearing. The motor has a power of 100 kilogrammeters, equivalent to that of 10 meu, and drives the helix, which is about 3 meters [9 feet, 10 inches] in diameter, at the rate of 180 revolutions per minute.”

Scientific American Supplement, Vol. XVI., No. 416, 22 December 1883, at Page 6631

This engraving by E.A. Tilly depicts the Tissandier electric airship departing Auteuil, Paris, 8 October 1883. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
This engraving by E.A. Tilly depicts the Tissandier electric airship departing Auteuil, Paris, 8 October 1883. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

5 October 1907

Nulli Secundus (Cale & Polden Ltd., Aldershot)
Nulli Secundus (Gale & Polden Printers, Aldershot)

5 October 1907: The British Army Dirigible No 1, Nulli Secundus, flown by Colonel John E. Capper, Royal Engineers, Superintendent of the Royal Balloon Factory, and Samuel Frederick Cody, made a flight from the Balloon Factory at Farnborough to London. After circling St. Paul’s Cathedral, the crew attempted to return to Farnborough but unfavorable winds forced them to moor the airship at the Crystal Palace. The flight covered a distance of 40 miles (64 kilometers) and took 3 hours, 25 minutes.

A contemporary news article described the event:

The military airship “Nulli Secundus” made a successful trip to London from Farnborough on Saturday last. Starting at 10.40, with Colonel Capper and Mr. Cody on board, the airship—a huge sausage-shaped balloon of goldbeater’s skin of thirty thousand cubic feet capacity driven by a fifty horse-power petrol-engine—travelled to London at a rate of about twenty-five miles an hour, passing over Buckingham Palace and the War Office, and circling round St. Paul’s. On the return journey a strong head-wind brought the airship almost to a standstill over Clapham Common, and its course was altered to Sydenham, where it descended safely in the grounds of the Crystal Palace. From the spectacular point of view, the experiment was a splendid success, as the airship passed over London at a height of only seven hundred and fifty feet, and at this stage of the journey seemed to be completely master of the elements. Journalists who talk of “the conquest of the air,” however, or declare that Colonel Capper’s fifty-mile flight has completely changed the strategic position of Great Britain, will do well to note that gallant officer’s modest estimate of his achievement. The conditions of the experiment were exceptionally favourable. “At the start the pilot-balloon we sent up showed that there was no wind at all.” The slight breeze which sprang up was with them on their way to London; but the moderate head-wind at Clapham prevented them from making any progress at all. Colonel Capper summed up the lessons of the trip by observing:—”We have got a decent slow-speed airship which we can navigate if the wind is not too strong”—i.e., more than fifteen miles an hour—”and which can be raised and depressed at will without the use of ballast. We do not pretend that what we have done to-day is anything first-class, but we do say it is satisfactory as a first attempt.” We may further note that the return journey to Farnborough has been abandoned owing to the damage done to the airship by a high wind on Thursday morning.

The Spectator, No. 4,137, Saturday, 12 October 1907, at Page 515. 

British Army Dirigible No. 1. (Unattributed)
British Army Dirigible No. 1. (Unattributed)

Nulli Secundus was 120 feet (36.59 meters) in length with a diameter of 26 feet (7.93 meters). The envelope was constructed of fifteen layers of goldbeaters’ skin (the outer membrane of calf intestine) and was filled with hydrogen. The semi-rigid dirigible was powered by a 50 horsepower Antoinette engine. It was capable of 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour).

Several days later, still moored at the Crystal Palace, the hydrogen gas was vented through the relief valves to prevent it being carried away in high winds. To speed up the dirigible’s deflation, the airship’s envelope was slashed. The materials were salvaged and returned to the Balloon Factory, where they were used to construct Nulli Secundus II.

Major General Sir John Edward Capper, KCB, KCVO, portrait by Elliott & Fry, 1916. (National Portrait Gallery NPGx82404)
Major General Sir John Edward Capper, K.C.B., K.C.V.O. Portrait by Elliott & Fry, 1916. (National Portrait Gallery NPGx82404)

Major General Sir John Edward Capper, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., was a senior British Army officer. He was born at Lucknow, Bengal, India, 7 December 1861; the son of William Copeland Capper and his wife, Sarah. Capper was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1880. He served on the Northwest Frontier and Burma from 1883 to 1899, and in South Africa until 1902.

Major and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel John Edward Capper, Royal Engineers, was appointed a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.), 31 October 1902. From 1903 to 1910, Capper commanded the Balloon School. He then became Commandant of the School of Military Engineering. On 4 June 1915, Major-General Capper was promoted to Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B.). He commanded the 24th Division during the Battle of the Somme. Following the War, Major-General Capper commanded the 64th Division, and British Troops in France and Flanders. He was lieutenant-governor of Guernsey from 1920 until his retirement from the British Army in 1925. He was invested Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (K.C.V.O.), 11 July 1921. Major-General Capper died in 1955.

Samuel Franklin Cody (1867–1913), photographed in 1909.
Samuel Franklin Cody, 1909. (Monash University)

Samuel Franklin Cody (née Samuel Cowdery) was born 7 March 1862 ¹ at Birdville, Texas. He was the son of Samuel Franklin Cowdery and Phoebe Jane Van Horn Cowdery.

Cody commonly dressed in cowboy fashion, and appeared similar to “Buffalo Bill” Cody, whose name he had adopted in 1889. He had been a performer in a “wild west show” that traveled to England. Cody was an an early pioneer in manned kites and gliders, airships and powered airplanes.

Cody’s flight of British Army Aeroplane No 1 at Aldershot, 5 October 1908—one year after the cross-country flight of Nulli Secundus—is officially considered to be the first flight of a powered airplane in Great Britain.

Cody became a naturalized British Subject on 21 October 1909.

Samuel Cody was killed 7 August  1913 ² when a new airplane he was testing, the Cody Floatplane, came apart “due to inherent structural weakness,” at about 200 feet (61 meters).

Samuel Franklin Cody at the House of Commons, 15 September 1909, photographed by Sir John Benjamin Stone. (National Portrait Gallery NPG x 44615)

¹ Certificate of Naturalization to an Alien No. 18455

² Wills and Administrations. 1914. Page 408, Column 1.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

26 September 2003

“David Hempleman-Adams, left, with Saint John resident Jim Rogers on Sept. 26, 2003, just before the balloon launch.” (Kings County Record)

26 September 2003: At 2:38 a.m., Friday, David Kim Hempleman-Adams, O.B.E., lifted off  from the athletic field of Sussex Elementary School, Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada, in his Rozière balloon on a four-day transatlantic flight. Hempleman-Adams was in an open  7 feet × 3 feet (2.1 × 0.9 meters) wicker basket.

Hempleman-Adam’s Cameron R-90 being prepared for takeoff on a previous transatlantic attempt, 27 June 2003, at Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The balloon was built by Cameron Balloons, Ltd., Bristol, in 2000. It was a Cameron R-90, serial number 4751. The balloon was first registered 31 March 2000, as G-BYZX.

The R-90 is a Rozière balloon, which has separate chambers for helium and heated air. This allows the aeronaut to control the balloon’s buoyancy, but the hybrid type uses much less fuel than a hot-air balloon. The type is named after its inventor, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale places the Cameron R-90 in the free balloon sub-class AM-08, for mixed balloons with a volume of 2,200–3,000 cubic meters (77,692–105,944 cubic feet).

G-BYZX had a maximum takeoff weight of 2,654 kilograms (5,851 pounds).

Hempleman Adams had previously flown G-BYZX, then named Britannic Challenge, to the North Pole, on 3 June 2000. Following his transatlantic flight, he would use it to set a FAI World Record for Altitude of 12,557 meters (41,198 feet), 23 March 2004.

During the first day, Hempleman-Adams’ balloon gradually rose to an altitude of 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) as it drifted eastward. On the second day he was at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and on Day 3 he reached a peak of 14,000 feet (4,267 meters).

The weather was very cold, with rain and snow. Hempleman-Adams said that the average temperature during the flight was -12 °C. (10.4 °F.). Ice built up on the balloon’s envelope, increasing its weight. It became heavy enough that the balloon began to descend. Hempleman-Adams was unable to prevent the descent by using the propane burners to heat the air and increase buoyancy, and was forced to lighten the balloon by jettisoning six propane cylinders.

During the third day, the balloon was hit by the shock waves of a Concorde supersonic airliner as it passed overhead at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). Hempleman-Adams felt a very abrupt, but fortunately, brief, descent as a result.

G-BYZX reached the southwestern tip of Ireland at 8:30 a.m., BST, on 29 September, completing the transatlantic phase of his flight. The balloon continued to drift eastward, and at 6 p.m. on 30 September, came to rest near Hambleton, Lancashire, England. The total duration of the flight was 83 hours, 14 minutes, 35 seconds.

Sir David Kim Hempleman-Adams, K.C.V.O., O.B.E., K.St.J., D.L., is an interesting guy. He is the first person to have completed the True Adventurer’s Grand Slam, by reaching the North and South Poles, the North and South Magnetic Poles, and to have climbed the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale online database currently credits him with 49 world aviation records.

David Hempleman-Adams waves at the camera after landing in England, 30 September 2003.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather