Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Adjust Font Size: Normal Large X-Large

2014 Living Legends Reception Honors Ballooning Pioneer Donald Piccard

On February 6th, legendary balloonist and UMN alum, Donald Piccard, will be honored for his appointment into the U.S. Ballooning Hall of Fame at the Living Legends Reception, hosted by Target Corporation Flight Services.

Much of the shape and form of hot-air ballooning today is the direct result of Piccard's enthusiasm and vision for ballooning. As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Piccard made the first post- World War II free flight in 1947 with a captured Japanese balloon. A year later he organized the first balloon club in the United States, the Balloon Club of America.

By the 1960s he and his partner, Ed Yost, were instrumental in getting hot-air ballooning recognized as a serious sport with the organizing of the first balloon races. Together, they were the first to fly the English Channel in a hot-air balloon and went on to establish Piccard Balloons, which was among the first manufacturers of hot air balloons. Piccard contributed much to the sport of hot-air ballooning, including the innovative use of plastic and Mylar materials.

However, coming from a family of legendary balloonists, Piccard was no stranger to reaching new heights. Essentially born into ballooning, Piccard was exposed to such great innovators as Ed Hill, Henry Ford and Orville Wright at a young age. Furthermore, his parents began enlisting him as a crew member for their renown ballooning expeditions at the ripe age of seven.

His father, Jean, became involved in ballooning during World War I and dedicated his life to the study and improvement of high-altitude ballooning. In 1936, he joined the University of Minnesota faculty, teaching courses in stratosphere flight problems, doing research, and conducting many pioneer balloon flights.

Jeannette, Piccard's mother, was the pilot of the famous family ballooning voyages. She managed to accumulate a slew of firsts for women in the industry, including becoming the first licensed woman balloonist in the world and the first woman to fly to the edge of space - a women's altitude record that she held for nearly three decades.

"Minnesota's legacy as a State of Innovation was made possible by people who had big dreams and the skill to make them happen." The Living Legends Reception will honor Piccard as an influential innovator in the field of hot-air ballooning and as a member of a pioneering family that helped Minnesota take America to space.

For more information on the reception, please follow this link.

*Information for this article was obtained from AEM Spotlight, and Wikipedia.

Photo of Donald Piccard and a Piccard burner.

Image obtained from

Last Modified: 2016-12-27 at 11:24:26 -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation