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Captive usually refers to a tethered aircraft.

Can also mean a whirling boat (or a few of them) which people can ride. Hiram Stevens Maxim set up one of these for entertainment purposes. Here he uses the term "captive" in quotation marks because of his opinion that this popular term is a bit of a misnomer:[1]

I believed that the so-called "captive flying machine" would be very popular, and bring in a lot of money, and it would have done so, if it had been put up as originally designed. I proposed to use my share of the profits for experimental work on real flying machines. That I was not far wrong in believing that such a machine would be a success, is witnessed by the fact that just about the same time, an American inventor thought of the same thing, put up some three or four machines the first year, and the next year about 50. They were highly profitable, and there are fully 140 of them running at the present time in the U.S.A. It is a fact that nothing in the way of side-shows at exhibitions or public resorts has ever had the success of this machine in the U.S.A., and even the little machine at Early's Court took ₤325 10s. in one day and ₤10,400 in a season.

Alfred Hildebrandt comments on the difficulties for riders on a captive balloon:

A captive balloon is very much at the mercy of the wind. If the breeze happens to be strong it will be blown hither and thither, and may indeed be pitched heavily on the ground. With a free balloon there is a feeling of perfect restfulness, and no symptom either of sea-sickness or giddiness. One glides peacefully along, and even the most giddily-inclined person feels no sensation of discomfort. It is entirely different with a captive balloon, with its incessant rolling and vibration; the discomfort is often very great. This naturally interferes with any observatins, and the use of a telescope is often quite impossible.[2]

Captive balloons were an important part of the spectacle of ballooning, and of public access to aeronautics:

Depuis 1852 (H. Giffard à Paris), et jusque vers 1900, chaque exposition nationale ou universelle, installée dans une capitale européenne ou une très grande agglomération, voit parmi ses attractions d'été l'emploi d'un ballon captif. C'est le seul moyen pratiquement sûr que possède le public pour s'élever au-dessus d'un paysage quand on ne bénéfice pas de montagne ou de haute tour dans les environs. Serrés à quinze ou cinquante personnes selon les modèles, côte à côte dans une nacelle en osier au bout d'un câble, souvent à 400 mètres du sol, quelquefois malmenés par les vents, il y a de quoi donner des frissons dans les crinolines et les fracs. L'ascension se termine fréquemment par une photo souvenir montrant ces passagers faisant bonne figure dans la nacelle. Plusieurs centaines de milliers de passagers de la fin de 19e siècle reçurent ainsi leur baptême de l'air.[3]

The Yon-Godard (Grands Ateliers aérostatiques du Champ de Mars) and Lachambre (Manufacture d'Aérostats de Vaugirard) workshops produced nearly all of these balloons. They were considered very reliable; the only major accident occurred at the Turin exhibition on 27 April 1884.[4]

Enclosing categories Simple tech terms
Keywords CPC B61B13/08, Passenger, Photography, exhibition
Start year
End year

Patents in category captive


  1. Maxim, 1909, Artificial and Natural Flight, pp. 75–76.
  2. Hildebrandt, 1908, Airships Past and Present, 187.
  3. Cailliez, 2004, Alexandre Liwentaal, p. 59.
  4. Cailliez, 2004, Alexandre Liwentaal, p. 59.

    Les enterprises de Lachambre et Yon-Godard bénéficient pratiquement du monopole de ces ballons captifs forains qui sont utilisés entre autres à Paris (1867-68), Londres (1869), Paris (1878-79), Nice et Turin (1884), Barcelone et Buenos AIres (1888), Paris/Trocadéro (1889), Nice et Rome (1890), Copenhague et Chicago (1891), Mexico et Toulon (1893), Lyon (1894), Paris/Champ-de-Maris (1895), Genève et Budapest (1896), Bruxelles et Leipzig (1897), Turin (1898), Le Caire (1899). Ces machines sont très fiables et il semble qu'un unique accident ait été à déplorer à Turin, le 27 avril 1884. En 1900 on comptera même six ballons captifs en activité dans la capitale française.