Hot air balloons are the oldest successful human carrying flight technology, dating back to the Montgolfier brothers' invention in Annonay, France in 1783. The first flight carrying humans was made on November 21, 1783, in Paris by Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes.
A hot air balloon consists of a bag called the envelope that is capable of containing hot air. Suspended beneath is the gondola or wicker basket (in certain, long distance or high altitude balloons, a capsule) which carries a source of heat capable of producing a sufficient temperature gradient between the air inside the envelope and the surrounding air mass to give enough lift to keep the balloon and its passengers aloft. Unlike gas balloons, the envelope does not have to be sealed at the bottom since the rising hot air only exerts pressure on the upper hemisphere of the balloon to provide lift. In today's sports balloons the envelope is generally made from nylon fabric and the mouth of the balloon (closest to the burner flame) is made from fire resistant material such as Nomex.
Today, hot air balloons are used primarily for recreation. There are some 7,500 hot air balloons operating in the United States.
Hot air balloons are able to fly to extremely high altitudes. On November 26, 2005, Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot air balloon flight, reaching 21,290 meters (69,852 feet). He took off from downtown Bombay, India and landed 240 km (150 miles) south in Panchale.
The furthest that a hot air balloon has ever been flown is 7,671.91 km. On January 15, 1991, the Virgin Pacific Flyer balloon completed the longest flight in a hot air balloon when Per Lindstrand (born in Sweden, but resident in the UK) and Richard Branson of the UK flew from Japan to Northern Canada.
With a volume of 74,000 m³ (2,600,000 ft³), the balloon envelope was the largest ever built for a hot air craft. Designed to fly in the trans-oceanic jetstreams the Pacific Flyer recorded the highest ground speed for a manned balloon at 245 mph (394 km/h).
The longest duration hot air balloon flight ever made is 50 hours and 38 minutes made by Michio Kanda and Hirosuke Tekezawa of Japan on January 2, 1997.