History of Aviation

Jean Pierre François Blanchard

Jean Pierre François Blanchard was born in Les Andelys, France, on 4th July, 1753. He became interested in science and invented a variety of devices such as a velocipede. Later a hydraulic pump system that raised water 400 feet (122 meters) from the Seine River to the Château Gaillard.

In the 1770s, Blanchard worked on designing heavier-than-air flying machines, including one based on a theory of rowing in the air currents with oars and a tiller.

Blanchard was inspired by the success of Joseph Michel Montgolfier and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier, in constructing an air balloon. In 1783 the Montgolfier brothers managed to persuade Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes to became the first people to take part in a manned balloon flight. In November, 1783, the two men travelled 7 miles (12.1 km) in less than half an hour at the height of 3,000 feet (915 m).

Blanchard constructed his own balloon and it took its first flight on 2nd March, 1784. On 7th January, 1785, Blanchard and the American doctor, John Jeffries, became the first people to cross the English Channel by air balloon when they travelled from Dover to Calais.

In 1785 Blanchard carried out the first successful parachute experiment. He placed a small animal in a small basket attached to a parachute. This was then dropped from a air balloon and the descent was so slow that the animal survived the fall.

On January 9, 1793, Blanchard made the first ever balloon ascent in North America. He carried a letter from President George Washington from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and therefore created the idea of air mail. Blanchard also made the first balloon flights in Germany, Belgium, Poland, and the Netherlands.

In February 1808, Blanchard suffered a heart attack on a flight over The Hague in the Netherlands and fell more than 50 feet. He never recovered from the fall and died on March 7, 1809.