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For general historic ballooning interest:


2011 Photo by Cindy Petrehn at Albuquerque

Who was Don Piccard?




1.  Skirt for hot air balloons, while Manager, Sport  Balloon Programe  at Raven Industries.

     Tapes for hot air balloons *

3.    Load Tapes for sport gas balloons

4.    First to use Kevlar load tapes

5.   Bulbous Gore for hot air and super pressure balloons

6.    First super pressure balloon, while at the G.T. Schjeldahl Company, Northfield, Minnesota

7.   Mylar Lamination for Polaris Missile, critical phase of missile deployment.

8.    Patents for cylindrical air supported structures, oil can opening, hot air balloon top

9.   Derrick Type Pick Up (NTIS# ADO72412)  (World Record  as the largest aircraft ever flown, claim I base on  DSM/ESA claim for the largest spacecraft flown.) {}

1    Wicker basket use for modern HAB

1    Quick fill sport gas balloon

1    Manual belaying pin for Pop Top rip panel for hot air balloon

       Manual guillotine Pop Top deflation duct for sport gas balloons

       Velcro Cuff deflation duct (Belly Button) for gas balloons

1    Top sitting gas valve (with clamp ring inside balloon)

F     Floating Duct Vent altitude stabilizing for gas balloons (appendix overflow operating as a variable net volume)

       Self vaporizing liquid service pilot light with its own vaporizing coil.

       Downstream  (from coil)  instant-off blast valve (SoloSystem)

        Pioneered Kydex plastic vacuum formed baskets

       Workable improvements on Dick Robert’s bungee parachute  top for hot air venting.



1.      Founded Balloon Club of America, thereby reviving the Gas  Ballooning sport in the USA.

2.      Organized the world’s first hot air balloon race, thereby creating a new sport

3.      Organized the world’s first two National Balloon Championships

4.      Funded Balloon Federation of America by first life memberships**

5.      Donated the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championships Trophy

6.      Authored both the World Book and Britannica encyclopedia BALLOON articles

7.      Promoted ballooning by setting numerous gas and hot air records

8.      Promoted ballooning by competing in races, championships including winning 1st Albuquerque

9.      Effective PR as reflected in numerous keys to the city, state resolutions, fire and police badges, and gubernatorial commissions as Colonel and Brigadier General.

1    Raised over $30,000.00 in one night for the National Balloon Museum selling from my collection.

1    Raised thousands of dollars for Junior Balloonist Scholarships by auctioning Ballymurray neckties

      Instrumental in establishing FAI hot air (AX) category by setting the first NAA sanctioned hot air balloon record - thereby forcing the CIA to accept hot air ballooning as an FAI sport.  (The CIA was at the time composed of European gas balloon pilots.)

      Edited BFA Pilot News for several years




1.      FAI World Balloon and Airship Hall of Fame

2.      Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame

3.      NAA Elder Statesman of Aviation Award

4.      FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award

5.      FAI Montgolfier Diplome

6.      BFA Shields/Trauger Award

7.      WLTAS Achievement Award

8.      Honorary Life Member Wingfoot Lighter Than Air Society

9.      Honorary Life Member NAA

10.   National Vice President NAA

11.   Vice President British Balloon and Airship Club

12.   Vice President British Balloon Museum and Library

13.   Life member Chesapeake Balloon Association, among others.

14.   Dean of the College of Fellows, International Aeronauts League

15.   BFA 25th Anniversary of Solo Fight  Recognition Pitcher

16.   State of California Gold Medal



1.      Flown in Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America, United States, Canada and Mexico.  Have not flown in Japan or Asia.

2.      Flown hydrogen, coal gas, water gas, natural gas, helium and hot air.  Have not flown smoke balloon or nitrogen.

3.      Flown paper, cotton, nylon, Fortisan, Mylar, polyethylene.  Flown with natural rubber, neoprene, acrylic, urethane, silicon coatings and Mylar laminate.  Have not flown varnished silk.

4.      Flown netted, taped, catenary curtained, gathered base balloons.  Single cell and multi-cell.

5.      Flown wicker basket, metal “Bird cage” basket, plastic monocoque “Body Helmet”, Solo System poly bucket, single seat chair and bareback horizontal tank.

6.      Flown in rain, snow, subzero and over 100 degree Fahrenheit and surface winds over 40 mph.

7.      Organized, with Charles Dollfus, the first English Channel crossing by hot air balloon

8.      Have even flown underground:  Believed to be first cave flight, at Herscend’s  Branson, MO "Marvel Cave".

9.      Survived 4300 ft. parachute descent in 80,000 cu ft netted balloon after rip panel failure.  "Saved by my Victor Inox Swiss Army pocket knife." Moral: Lay your own rip panel to standard practice.

10.   Have several FAI  hot air and gas free balloon class records for distance and altitudes up to 34,000 ft.


*The invention and use of load tapes is important because they were never used before the Don Piccard Serial Number 1, AX-2 hot air balloon.  Previous gas and hot air balloons used either simple load patches (Finger Patch or Whittle Patch) or catenary curtain suspension.  Eventual catastrophic failure  was inevitable in those systems unless strict maintenance was enforced – an unlikely situation in ballooning.  Plastic gas balloons previously came close, using taped seams.

Management at Raven refused Piccard’s demands for load tapes, allegedly for cost reasons and continued to produce commercial sport balloons without them for many years.  Semco eventually used short tapes.  Catastrophic failures (Yost, McGrath and Berry with Ravens and Col. and Mrs.  Huber) and market competition demand eventually persuaded Raven to adopt them.  Other manufacturers accepted the concept from the start, but some were insufficient.

The design philosophy that calls for this unnatural solution to loading structural fabric assemblies is quite unique and rarely seen, even in sail boat sails, tents and air supported structures.   Practice has proven it valid and hot air balloons with Piccard’s load tapes have an excellent safety record.  Without them, balloons would rely on stipulated maintenance inspections to prevent catastrophic in flight failure.  Actual compliance with regulations  is dismal.  The failure of regulators to act - even with "blood on the ground" - is also dismal.

** Without a treasury, the BFA could not have accomplished anything.  The founding meeting was heading for continuation simply as a dead end front for the use of NAA Federal benefits.  Those at the meeting showed no interest in contributing to the welfare of the "Federation'.



Herewith some "Scrap Book Memories" from the past:

The "Boat-a-loon" helium dirigible in the Cow Palace San Francisco Sport & Boat Show.

Don Piccard, Builder/Pilot - Tom Rooney, Sponsor.

Electric powered outboard propeller in free flight.

One mil Mylar using G. T. Schjeldahl Co. tape in a Sigma 0 profile.

On the Mall in 1966

Flying "KNX" Piccard AX-6 for the Smithsonian.

Don in free flight, just after lift off, with Paul Garber and Ben Lawless.

(Ben wearing the WW I Pickelhaube, Don in background on burner)

Note hand holds on burner and pressure regulator.  There are only eight suspension lines and three skids.  Later I went to twelve gores (divisible by 2,3,4,6 for color options) and four skids so it would ride better on a snow mobile!

Photo from January 2011 Air & Space magazine


Wyatt Earp died on my third birthday.

I never met him, but I did meet Bisplinghof on a train once.



The above candid shot was taken 12-2-2010

It shows the delivery of the 2010 IAL Commerative Medallions to the National Balloon Museum in Indianola, Iowa.  Becky now has them available.

The balloon in the trailer is a former Indianola resident, being Pat McClintock's "CAT'S PAJAMAS".  It was on it way to Topeka to C. Tantanillo where it will be I.D. as N2CT.  (And it is far past Chris's 2nd balloon.)  2CT features the latest iteration of my bungee top.  Ask Chris about it.  You'll need air brakes to get him to stop.

That is the same trailer seen in the Johnny Carson balloon segment of the "Channel Champ" CD (also available for the benefit of the museum) but a new, to me, 1967 Morris.  Johnny rode in my Woody Special.




This is the new bungee top.  Can you see that the centering cords are at an angle, criss crossing each other to form a twelve point star?  There are 24 bungee cords at angles instead of twelve radially.  That sets the cords nearer level so they don't pull down on the top.  This can't "Float" or "Fall" away from the opening and SNAPS closed when the pull cord is released.  There is no Velcro - the top centers and sets itself automatically on inflation.  The parachute has twenty-four gores with twelve straight seams and twelve with curved edges so you can see twelve load tapes plus the twenty-four seams in the picture.  The top blouses like a cap at the edge to make a tight seal against the tensioned opening edge of the balloon.

For this prototype test we made the top proportionally larger than normal to demonstrate and test a worst case scenario.  A smaller top in this size balloon would work even better, but this one is still very easy to pull and snaps to a tight seal automatically.  The red lip, barely seen at the bottom of the above shot, is to form the transition from the typical Piccard bulbous gores to the taut twelve sided polygon that forms the opening edge and seals against the puffy parachute.

Another picture, courtesy of Jeromie Rose.  Paul Costello, with moustache,  and Chris Tantillo, with hood, are in the balloon with me.  The yellow tabs are the anchor points on the envelope for the bungees.  The yellow stripes at five and eight O'clock are left over from the original pie shape Velcro rip panel which was sewn up. The sun and shadows at the bottom are from the mouth and the skirt.  If you zoom in, you may be able to pick out the juncture of the parachute shroud (clew) lines.  Note that they don't hang down much but when the valve is closed are almost horizontal.  Just a little pull draws the edges in toward the center making a large annular opening for venting.  For deflation, the whole parachute is pulled down.


This site (www.N34.US) and the matching FAA registration (N34US) are available.  Call me at 612 333 6912  to talk transfer of the registrations....


That is a bronze bust of Don's dad sculpted when he was in college.

Don Piccard is the owner of FAA registration "N34US" and this website  (WWW.N34.US)

Call 612 333 6912 to talk about transfer of the matching set.

(U.S. Highway 34 is the highest paved road in the U.S.!.)



I agree on the error implicit in the term "False Lift". 

I like TDL - "Transitory Dynamic Lift" - as being better.   Or call it Temporary Dynamic Lift.

It is NOT false.  It is real and can have disastrous results.  Calling it false lift can be misleading to the neophyte pilot.  Call it what it is.

Be aware of your circumstances and all the dynamic and static influences.

I would be happy to post additional comments and discussion on this continuing misunderstanding.



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