Gondola, Raven

Display Status:

This object is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Collection Item Long Description:

Raven "Vulcoon" Balloon Basket

This basket, constructed of aluminum tubing and fiberglass panels, was part of a Raven Vulcoon balloon, model S50A. This was the first hot air balloon type to receive an airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. This balloon, S5-A-179 (N1960R), was manufactured in May 1972, and first flown on June 11 of that year. The original balloon envelope had a capacity of 56,500 cubic feet, an empty weight of 325 pounds, and a maximum gross lifting capacity of 1400 pounds. For its entire career, the balloon was owned and operated by the Tewksbury Balloon Club, Fairmont, New Jersey.

Raven Industries, the pioneer manufacturer of hot air sport balloons was founded in 1956 by Paul Edward Yost, J. R. Smith, Joseph Kaliszewski, and Dwayne Thon, all of whom had been employed in the General Mills scientific balloon program. Headquartered in Sioux Falls, SD, the young firm won a contract with the from the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) to create a balloon that would carry a pilot to 10,000 feet, remain in the air for three hours, and be reusable. In addition, the craft had to be small and light enough so that it could be inflated and launched quickly with a minimum of personnel.

Yost made the first tethered flight with the ancestor of all modern hot air balloons in October 1955. The envelope was plastic film of the sort used in the much larger gas balloons that were carrying scientific payloads to extreme altitudes. Plumber’s pots burning kerosene supplied the heat. Yost remained aloft for 25 minutes and traveled three miles from the takeoff point.

The technology evolved over the next five years. When Yost made his first free flight in a hot air balloon, from Bruning, Nebraska, on October 20, 1960, he flew with a nylon envelope and burners fueled by propane. He made his second flight from the famed Stratobowl, near Rapid City, South Dakota, in November 1960, with an improved envelope and burner. Raven Industries sold their first civilian hot air balloon in November 1961, launching a new sport in the process.

Gift of Maureen and Christopher Lynch