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Posted 9/29/2014 Printable Fact Sheet
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Lighter-than-Air Flight Exhibit
DAYTON, Ohio -- Lighter-than-Air Flight exhibit in the Early Years Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Lighter-than-air flight was the first method used to take to the skies. Air that is less dense (or "lighter") rises. Heating the air inside of an envelope (or balloon) makes the heated air less dense, thereby causing it to rise. Another method is to fill the envelope with low-density (or "light") gas such as hydrogen, which is very flammable, or helium.

There are two basic types of lighter-than-air vehicles -- balloons and dirigibles. Balloons are either tethered or drift with the wind, and the pilot can only control altitude. Dirigibles, often called airships, are powered, light-than-air vehicles that can be steered.

Click on the following links to learn more about lighter-than-air flight.

Ballooning: First in the Air
Military Ballooning: The American Civil War
Military Ballooning: The Spanish-American War

Click here to return to the Early Years Gallery.

Find Out More
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Related Fact Sheets
Controllable Balloons: Dirigibles
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