Hot air balloon launch in France soars past record

PARIS (AP) — A hot air balloon festival at a former NATO airfield in eastern France broke two records in as many days this week — first by sending up 408 piloted balloons in an hour, then by lining up 391 balloons on the runways and sending them up together.

The sound of hundreds of gas burners blasting simultaneously is extraordinary, said Denis Martignon, a pilot who flew both days.

“It was an impressive wall of balloons,” Martignon said.

The annual Lorraine Mondial Air Balloons is organized by a descendent of the 18th century aeronautics pioneer Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier who took up the family hobby. Philippe Buron Pilatre has been piloting balloons since 1979.

“My father flew. My son flies. My brother flies. Someday my grandson might fly,” he said Friday.

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