The First Hot-Air Balloon Flight In England

fiction

The First Hot-Air Balloon Flight In England

By John Powell

Saint George and Prime Minister, Merlin the Whirlin, had decided to travel to Siberia to rescue Siberian Waggalogs which they believed were stranded on an Arctic ice flow. As the First Sea Lord, Sir Salty Biscuit, had refused to let any of his warships, even the mighty new flagship, Titanic, venture anywhere near an iceberg, Merlin decided to try to build a hot-air balloon powered by Miklos, a fire-breathing Hungarian Waggalog.

The development of this revolutionary aircraft was fraught with difficulty and the intrepid adventurers suffered many setbacks as they struggled to bring their plans to fruition. Finally, the Goddess of Innovation smiled kindly on the enterprise and a series of tethered tests replicated the success of the first one. The take-off weight had been gradually increased until a full load of Marmorgugelhupf cake was aboard and Miklos was still operating at less than half-puff. It was time for the first lift-off in free flight.

Merlin climbed into the basket with Miklos, and George undid the mooring ropes one by one. His plan was to jump into the basket immediately after releasing the last knot. Unfortunately, Merlin, who was not as expert a pilot as George, gave Miklos the signal for level three power instead of level two. The basket leapt upwards and Merlin leaned over the side of the wickerwork in alarm. George reached up and was just able to take hold of the end of Merlin’s long white beard.

Dangling there above the treetops George gave a laugh. ‘That’s stretched it, he shouted, ‘Now it will cover your… ‘

‘Stop fooling about and get into the basket,’ shouted an angry Prime Minister, whose chin was pulled down hard against the side of the basket by the hanging weight of the Patron Saint. George scrambled over the side of the wickerwork and landed beside his co-pilot. ‘I’d better take over the controls,’ he said and switching off the power the balloon came down and settled the basket back on the ground.

Merlin was rubbing his chin and grinning from ear to ear, ‘I bet that in about 300 years from now the French will claim to have been the first balloon aviators. It will take them that long to get their crazy idea to work.’ Then, to ensure his place in history, he wrote a brief account of the day’s event to be left in the archives of the English Library until such time as people might be interested in publishing a record of such achievements. He also alerted local news media to the coming attempt to fly to Siberia by sending a note by pigeon post to the Bristol Breakfast Crier (BBC).

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