Ed Yost, Father of Modern Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air balloon festivals and rallies are held in many states across the U.S. It has become a hobby for many and a fascinating way to fly. How did this popular sport get its start?

The Montgolfier brothers from France launched the first hot air balloon. In 1783, they launched a hot air balloon carrying a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. Later the same year, a balloon was launched carrying two men. Unfortunately, their invention was impractical because there was no way to keep enough of the heavy fuel on board to keep the balloon aloft for any length of time. Those filled with helium also proved to be quite dangerous. Their invention was eventually shelved.

Paul Edward Yost preferred to be called Ed. He was born in Bristow, Iowa, on June 30, 1919. He had been interested in hot air balloons as a young boy. When Ed was fifteen, he and his father watched an experimental balloon flight from the Stratobowl in Rapid City, South Dakota. He never forgot it.

Ed Yost graduated from Boeing School of Aeronautics in California in 1940. He was hired as a civilian employee of the Army. He was assigned to the balloon technology division. One device he worked on for the Army was dropping a box of propaganda leaflets into occupied territory during World War II. They were lifted into the air by a balloon. The box holding the leaflets was sealed with dry ice. When the dry ice evaporated, the box of leaflets would drop. The leaflets then fluttered to the ground where they were picked up. It was the only way information could make it past enemy lines.

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