Following the success of the early balloonists Joseph-Michel Montgolfier, Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, and Jacques Alexandre César Charles, brave aeronauts attempted to push the boundaries of what was possible with one flight after another. Things did not always go well in these early days of flight. Would-be aeronauts Miolan and Janinet announced that they would fly from Paris on July 11, 1784. By 5:00 pm, with the balloon still on the ground, the crowd lost patience and set it on fire.
The balloon Le Suffren flew from an orphanage in Nantes. Constructed of oiled silk by M. Levesque, the balloon measured 30'4" in diameter. Coustard de Massi, Chevalier de St. Louis, Father R.P. Mouchet, and the Marquis de Luynes made the first flight with Le Suffren on June 14, 1784. Coustard de Massy and M. Dolagnes made a second flight in the balloon from Nantes on September 6. The pair ran short of a ballast and suffered a rough landing, bouncing across the ground until they were finally able to leap safely to earth at Gest, nine leagues (27 miles) from Nantes. The balloon was found at Poitou, 22 leagues (66 miles) from the take-off point.
Despite these risks, the balloon remained popular in France—the Montgolfier brothers even created a balloon measuring 37 meters (120 feet) tall, their largest, called the Le Flesselles. Outside France, however, there remained those who were skeptical of the balloon’s utility.