50 years of warm hot air balloons

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Hot air balloons were launched from Bristol's College Green yesterday, ahead of the opening of the annual International Balloon Fiesta later this week.

In 1783, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes made the first manned untethered flight in a balloon over Paris, but this year is the 50th anniversary of ballooning as we know it – with a heater on board.

Ed Yost from Bristow, Iowa, pioneered the technology, but Europe's first hot air balloon, The Bristol Belle, was developed by Bristol Gliding Club shortly afterwards, capturing the imagination of the public with flights over the Sahara and the Alps.

Now in its 32nd year, the Fiesta is Europe's leading hot air ballooning festival. Held in the rolling hills of Ashton Court on the edge of Bristol, 150 balloons will take part in this year's event.

The festival begins on Thursday, with 500,000 people expected to attend over four days.