Copyright © A. Filippone (1996-2001). All Rights Reserved.

World of Aerodynamics



I have been wondering, and I would like you to let me know one way or the other, whether Dr. Ferguson really did cross Africa on a balloon.
[Ref. 1]

Lighter-than-air vehicles consists of balloons and dirigibles (or airships).

The Balloon

The balloon qualifies has the first successful lighter-than-air flying machine, with over 200 years of history. The first manned flight is attributed to the Montgolfier brothers in 1783. Yet the appeal of flying on a balloon has not diminished. According to some estimates over 1000 balloons, Ref. 2, are built every year.

Over the years the balloon has fascinated writers and dreamers. The French writer Jules Verne wrote the adventure book “Five Weeks in a Balloon” (1870). After dozens of attempts only recently (March 26, 1999) the first successful non-stop flight around the world was made (Breitling Orbiter III). The flight lasted over 19 days to cover a distance of 42,610 Km.

Balloons are nowdays employed for scientific exploration in the lower and upper atmosphere (telemetry, ocean circulation, cosmic radiation, solar physics, ozone depletion). balloons and airships appear often fair shows.

The Airship

Other lighter-than-air vehicles are the airships … They are now days employed for military and scientific flight operations, unmanned recoinnassance, as TV platforms, lift transport, and other commercial exploitation. Gone are the days of the gigantic airships used for exploration (Arctic regions) and transatlatic flight. Worth mentioning are the Zeppelins and Hindenburgs of the 1920s and 1930s.


  1. A reader to the first publisher of Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon , 1863 (French edition).

  2. The Economist, January 18, 1997

  3. Khoury GA, Gillett JD (editors). Airship Technology, Cambridge Aerospace Series 10, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999.

  4. Munk MM. Aerodynamics of Airships, in Durand WF (editor), Aerodynamic Theory, Vol 5, Division N, Dover Publ. Inc (1934, reprinted several times).

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Copyright © A. Filippone (1996-2001). All Rights Reserved.