First English Channel Crossing
On this day, January 7, in 1785, French aviator and inventor Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries made the first aerial crossing of the English Channel. The two-and-a-half-hour flight was conducted with one of Blanchard's hot air balloons, depicted above in an illustration in the 1867 French book History of Balloons and Famous Climbs (pp. 169). This was Blanchard's third balloon flight, and he went on to spend the rest of his career making flights all over Europe, eventually coming overseas to conduct the first balloon flight in North America in 1793, from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. He even died by balloon, after suffering a heart attack and falling out during a flight -- he survived for another year until he finally succumbed to his injuries. Jeffries, meanwhile, began observing the weather via balloon -- we now celebrate National Weatherpersons Day on February 5, Jeffries birthday. Read more about the history of balloon flights in the Air & Space archives.
Image: NASM Archives