Thursday, December 21, 2006

Flying High in China


A century before the airplane, humans were already able to fly. They escaped Earth's gravity in hot air balloons! The first manned balloon was made in 1783 by French brothers, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, who succeeded in flying over Paris for twenty-five minutes. Two centuries later, the now old-fashioned sport is still loved by hard-core aficionados.

Thousands of people around the world take part in hot air ballooning. In China, two hundred or so have earned certificates for the sport. They are the lucky minority who can enjoy the high-octane flight which was a dream of their ancestors.

It was overcast on the day of filming. Experts said that wouldn't harm the flight, but there was no wind which meant more impurity in the air. A light breeze is best for ballooning.

Nowadays the hot air balloon has evolved into something that's simple to put together, easy to handle and very safe. The actual balloon part which is often called "The Envelope" is normally made by sewing together nylon or polyester panels with the bottom part made from a flame resistant material. The basket is woven from cane which carries gas containers, pipelines and burners. The pilot adjusts the handle to ignite the air and the heat makes the balloon rise!

In China, you need to pass a test and earn a certificate from the General Administration of Civil Aviation to fly a hot air balloon. And a special suit with full-length sleeves is needed to make sure the flame doesn't burn your arm.

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