120 years before the Wright Brothers took flight in Kitty Hawk, Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes lifted off from the western outskirts of Paris in a Montgolfier balloon. Their flight was the first time man freed himself from the earth and into the skies. Their flight was well-documented by thousands of onlookers, including Benjamin Franklin. They ascended 914 meters vertically, travelled 9 kilometers horizontally, and landed after 25 minutes aloft. In doing so, they set the marks for altitude, distance, and duration records. Of course, records are meant to be broken! If those original pilots were alive today they would be amazed at how technology, piloting skills, and an understanding of meteorology have allowed manned balloons to completely circumnavigate the earth.
In order to level the playing field in record setting, balloons are divided into different types and sizes. Just as it wouldn't be fair for a Boeing 747 to compete against a Cessa 172, the performance characteristics of a 100,000 ft3 hot air balloon are dramatically different from a 35,000 ft3 lighter-than-air gas filled balloon. There are four categories of balloons: AA (lighter-than-air gas), AX (hot air), AM (hybrid of gas and hot air), and AS (super pressurized). Within each of these types of balloons there are 15 sizes. For record setting purposes there are altitude, distance, and duration records for each type and size. To set an Aviation World Record you must follow a strict set of rules developed and controlled by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
Ballooning records can be classified as Personal, National, or World records. Personal records are something every pilot should strive for in their flying career. To fly higher, farther, or longer than you've previously experienced is something that builds confidence and a sense of intrinsic pride. When pilots want to take the next step in record breaking it is in National records. This pits your skills and planning against the best result of a fellow countryman. If you succeed in breaking their record, while following all applicable rules, you are awarded the National record. Once a National record is ratified, if the flight is of World record performance, the record dossier is forwarded to the FAI for record homologation.
As the known boundaries of aircraft and pilot limitations are pushed further, so is the difficulty in breaking records. These are the challenges we thrive on. Troy was the first person, and one of only two, to break World records in the AA, AX, and AM categories. As the most prolific U.S. ballooning record setter, he lives for taking a record-breaking idea from the theoretical to the fruition of an amazing flight.
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