First ever glass-bottomed hot air balloon takes flight

August 12, 2010 | by | 4 Comments

These stomach-churning images capture the moment the world’s first glass-bottomed hot air balloon took its maiden flight today ahead of the 2010 Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

The traditional wicker four-man basket has a completely transparent floor – providing passengers with heart-stopping views of the scenery below.

Yesterday the balloon took to the skies for the first time over historic Bath, Somerset, to mark the start of the 2010 Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

The basket was the brainchild of pilot Christian Brown – who has 18 years experience flying balloons – and admitted the flight was a ”terrifying experience”.

He said: ”We’ve done tethered trials before, which usually end with passengers shrieking and screaming in fear, but this is the first time we’ve actually taken to the skies unaided.

”It was a terrifying experience.

”Ordinarily, you would look over the edge of the basket to peer at the ground below but there is something very disconcerting about seeing it right beneath your feet.

”It certainly isn’t for the feint-hearted, but this is a totally unique experience and we have added a new dimension to ballooning.”

The balloon was designed by Shropshire-based Lindstrand Balloons and is made made using 12 miles of thread and covered with enough material to cover three double decker buses.

A traditional wicker basket carries up to two passengers and two pilots who stand on just two-inch thick glass.

Christian, 44, travelled the world in a balloon with tycoon Richard Branson and currently holds the tethered altitude world record after flying at 10,000ft on a mountain in Chile.

He added: ”We designed it for Alpine flying as it would give incredible views of the scenery below.

”We also hope to use it to break the altitude world record and fly at over 10,000ft, which will be incredible.

”We’re in the very early stages at the minute and are getting feedback from passengers but hope to roll them out to the public next year.”

Jo Chambers, 31, from Bath, who was the first to go up in the balloon yesterday, said: ”It was absolutely incredible and offered beautiful view below.

”It was unnerving and the basket creaked slightly which was slightly disconcerting.

”It is an incredible site to see the ground slowly disappearing directly beneath your feet as you ascend.”

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Comments (4)

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  1. SORRY, THIS IS NOT THE WORLDS ONLY GLASS BOTTOM HOT AIR BALLOON GONDOLA. I built the WORLD’ FIRST glass bottom hot air balloon gondola in 1980. It was published on the cover of Ballooning magazine (official publication of The Balloon Federation of America) in the MAY/JUNE 1982 Issue. The gondola is still airworthy. –Paul S. Stumpf Andover, VT USA

  2. etsisk says:

    Not for the "feint-hearted"?? FEINT-hearted?? Y'all don't have editors? Relying on the ol' spell-check, are ya??? Really, folks, come on…

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s the correct spelling? If you’re not english that might be why as we often spell things different for example colour instead of color.

  3. Julie Graham says:

    At the age of 34 I have been involved with hot air ballooning for over half my life on and off. My Dad has a balloon himself and flies and works for a Michigan Hot Air Balloon Company. So anyway I do have a fairly abundant knowledge of Hot Air Ballooning.

    I do have to say I'm surprised you did not go with plexi-glass or a more forgiving form of glass for the bottom of the basket. I know in Michigan at least landing can get a little rough. I suppose if the pilot very experienced can help avoid a hard landing, but I have a pilot with over 25 years of experience get caught off guard with and unexpected downward thermal, thus taking out the luggage rack on a truck with attempting a landing at a local school.

    Also I am curious about the design of the balloon. Why go with a special shape? Again I would think winds may catch you more off guard with it? Harder landings?

    Sorry to ask such questions, I'm no expert but thought I would ask and comment. After all I’m sure these are issues you have already worked out before you got to this point anyway.

    On a more positive note… It is a marvel idea and one I would love to experience too. But with my years of being around balloons for so long I would like to wager I don't get as freaky about it as most. Laugh out Loud!

    Thanks for listening to my ranting’s.

    Julie Graham.

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