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Welcome to Don Piccard Balloons

We are involved with sport balloons and sport balloon flying and some special research ballooning. This includes both hot air and gas balloons. Our experience covers hydrogen, helium and city gas ballooning as well as hot air flying. We have flown below sea level and, so far, as high as 35,000 feet above sea level. (My cousin, Jacques, has "flown:" 35,000 feet below sea level in an underwater balloon inflated with gasoline for buoyancy and my mother, Jeannette, has flown 57,000 above with a hydrogen balloon.)

We are now planning a balloon flight into the mesosphere, which starts at about 150,000 feet above sea level. That flight is being prepared by the XAP Foundation LTD non-profit Minnesota corporation in conjunction with The House of Mercy.


(Including many historical "Firsts")


"Jonathan" The First AX-1 1971

Jonathan (a little red apple) was made from some very heavily colandered and lightly coated 3/4 ounce fabric.  He now resides in the Windsor Locks, Connecticut Bradley museum - they can even inflate it inside their big hangar.  As the original deflation panel was not needed it was sewn closed.  (Little balloons cool very rapidly - even when airborne.)


"Sam McGee" 1,200,000 cu. ft. Hot Air Balloon 1967

(From 16 mm cine frame)

Sam was built for service in Alaska for oil drilling rig heavy loads on the North Slope.  After delivery tests lifting over 22,000 pounds, the project was shelved.  It used a Corvair engine for the five foot inflation fan and a ten foot diameter Diesel oil burner for heat.  It packed in an eight by four by five foot box without the burner.  The padded vertical seams had unusual strength to accommodate horizontal stresses. I think it was by far the largest hot air balloon ever built to that date.



Dale Gates & Nick Piantanida with the First AX-3, 1965

This eight gore gore balloon was also the first and original Bulbous (or "Lobular") gore balloon.  It was built for Dale Gates of the Cleveland Parachute Club.  Nick Piantanida was on hand for the inflation as he prepared for his 123,000 foot ascent.  The trees give a good windbreak for a gentle launch in very calm conditions. 



"D-ERGEE IV" Germany's First "Modern" Hot Air Balloon

Ergee Fear was built for our German distributor, Ballonfabrik Augsburg  (who built Auguste Piccard's stratosphere balloon.)  It was Ergee's fourth balloon, but their, and Germany's, first "Modern" hot air balloon.


  Willie Piccard

Flying "Holiday" for World Class A-1 Distance Record

"Holiday" was the first ever manned flight Mylar or polyester balloon.  It was built by me, or for me, at the G. T. Schjeldahl Co in 1960 for Holiday Erickson Petroleum Company and first flown with helium off a barge on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for a World Class A-1 Altitude Record of just over 1,000 meters.  We  landed in a mosquito infested swamp near Stanchfield, Minnesota.  

This balloon has been donated to the British Balloon and Airship Museum and Library (www.britishballoonmuseum.org.uk) and is now at Newbury.  R.I.P.



"Princess Emilie" Sweden's First Registered Balloon

SEZZA was the first Swedish federal balloon registration.  (Andree's balloon and other great Swedish craft were before civil registrations.)  She was built for the Aafors Balloon & Rocket Klub - a group of glass artists in the Kosta - Boda area.



Switzerland Joins The Club

Zumikon was built for Kurt Ruenzi, but he could never get Swiss civil air authority clearance and it went to the Oxford Balloon Club.  It was one of my first AX-7's.  (The side vent didn't work very well.  The "Dutch Lacing" rip panel closure- used instead of Velcro - was very reliable, but labor intensive for re-rigging.)

Don and Twin Granddaughters on their first ride in a "Balloon" with Grandpa


Three Generations after Twins First Flight with Grandpa  on Grandpa's - 80th Birthday


The House of Mercy, Official Team XAP Chaplaincy ("It isn't THAT bad")
Minnesota Ballooning Association PO Box 582305 Minneapolis, MN 55458-2305
Mother Lode of Balloon URL's
First Mylar Flight ("Holiday") July 24, 1960, Echo August 12
A Crazy Jump Balloon Story at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
America's First "Space Craft" at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago
About Dad & Uncle Auguste
It's a GAS at Hudson, Wisconsin
Short Biography
We salute six Elder Statesmen who helped shape the course of aviation history.

Each year the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) honors a half-dozen individuals who have contributed to the advancement and the history of aviation in the United States. The historic aspect of their accomplishments is reinforced by one of the basic criteria for the award--one must be at least 60 years old to be accorded the Elder Statesman of Aviation award. The award was established in 1954 to honor outstanding Americans who have contributed significantly to aeronautics.

Recipients of the 1998 Elder Statesman of Aviation award are:

Donald L. Piccard is the acknowledged father of modern hot-air ballooning and a founder of the Balloon Federation of America. His achievements during the past 50 years have contributed greatly to the development and acceptance of ballooning as a sport, and resulted in modern hot-air ballooning competition as it is recognized throughout the world today. At 70, Piccard continues to instruct, promote and write about one of the oldest forms of air transportation.


Here is my WWII "Warbird" former U.S. Navy training balloon, now operated by the Kevin Knapp's "Civil War Balloon Corps".  It generally only costs $5,000 to $10,000 for helium for one exhibition.  



Here are four of eight 1/2 mil metalized Mylar balloons ready to launch for a cluster flight.  These were built for the World Gas Balloon Championships in Bitterfeld, Germany but were not flown in competition.  We have flown clusters of these balloons in several countries and have made the first "Pleiades" two person flight using nine of these very balloon cells.   There are more pictures at www.N6US.com.


Short Biography Comment ( Short Biography)

Just a few words to bring the Biography up to date: The 1957 Pleiades flight was the first ever plastic balloon multi celled (Pleiades) flight. Charles Moore made the first manned plastic balloon flight in a single cell polyethylene balloon. (Jean Piccard flew the first successful plastic balloon in 1936. It was Cellophane. He also made the first manned multi-celled balloon flight, the Pleiades, using 98 rubber sounding balloons in 1937.) As a balloon rises, gases within the envelope expand, increasing volume as the atmospheric pressure outside decreases. The frost free window and the plastic balloon inventions were by Jean Piccard. The Bathyscaph was a co-invention of the twins, Jean and Auguste, when they were students in 1905, but was built by Auguste after WWII. (Note that in English the word Bathyscaph has no e.) Don's solo gondola was fabricated by Mike Schonfeld and himself in the Areo Engineering Lab at the U of M, not the medical lab. The surplus U. S. Navy balloon used city gas for buoyancy, not for fuel. A hot air balloon could burn it to create heat for lift, but the tanks for compressed gas would be very heavy. So hot air balloons use liquid propane and vaporize it to burn. All these details are rather obscure, but if we hot link you to an otherwise great article, we want you to get it all straight. Thank you.

Email: DonPiccard@USFamily.net

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