Ed Yost – Aviator, Inventor, and "Father of Modern Day Hot-Air Balloon" Dies
Taos, NM – May 28, 2007 – Paul “Ed” Yost, inventor of the modern hot-air balloon and celebrated aviation pioneer, whose most famous innovation fostered the sport of hot-air ballooning, died yesterday at his home in Taos, New Mexico from natural causes. He was 87.
Yost, a pioneer in many aspects of aviation, is most famous for his creation of the modern hot-air balloon. Although the idea of using a fire to heat the air inside a balloon sufficiently for manned flight was first conceived by the Montgolfier brothers in France in the late 1700s, it was Yost’s onboard propane-burner system more than 150 years later that made flights of longer duration possible. Yost’s invention turned modern hot-air balloons into viable and maneuverable aircraft. In addition, he further refined the modern-day balloon with other features which he patented. These include nonporous synthetic fabrics, maneuvering vents, and deflation systems for landing. Yost also designed the distinctive “teardrop” shape of the hot air balloon envelope itself— which can be seen on the license plates of all New Mexico vehicles.
In October 1955, Yost developed and flew the first prototype of the modern hot air balloon in a tethered flight. The envelope was plastic film, and heat was provided by burning kerosene. On 22 October of 1960, Yost made the first-ever free flight of the modern hot air balloon from Bruning, Nebraska using an envelope made of a newly-developed heat-resistant fabric with heat generated by a propane burner. Yost then further refined and improved on his original designs and materials. In 1963 Yost piloted first balloon flight across the English Channel with crew member Don Piccard in a balloon named the “Channel Champ.”
In 1976, Yost set 13 aviation world’s records for distance traveled and amount of time aloft in his attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean —solo— by balloon. He designed and built his balloon, the “Silver Fox" in his home garage. It featured a gondola that was shaped like a boat in the event that he would be forced down at sea —which is precisely what occurred. Although he had traveled far in excess of the distance needed to reach Europe from his launch point off the coast of Maine — his flight path began to point South rather than the hoped-for East direction due to inaccurate weather forecasting. The dream was achieved two years later with Yost’s assistance in a Yost-built balloon.
Yost also contributed to the advancement of the sport of ballooning and lighter-than-air flight. He helped to found the Balloon Federation of America (BFA) and in organizing the first US National Ballooning Championship at Indianola, Iowa.
Longtime friend Colonel Joe Kittinger stated “Ed was not only a pioneer for hot air ballooning, but he also was instrumental in the improvement of gas balloons. In that capacity, he was striving to have a national monument made near Rapid City, South Dakota.” Kittinger and others have vowed to continue these efforts and to make Yost’s dream of such a national monumnent a reality.
Over the course of his lifetime, Yost received numerous awards for his contributions to aviation from The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the Wingfoot Lighter-Than-Air Society, the National Aeronautic Association, Balloon Federation of America and the Aero Club of New England. He was also the first person inducted into the U.S. Ballooning Hall of Fame. Most recently, he was awarded the prestigious Lipton Trophy by the British Balloon and Airship Club in 2006.
Ed Yost is survived by his two sons Greg Yost, with Mustang Engineering in Houston, Texas; and Dale Yost, founder and CEO of Brainhook, an advertising agency in Singapore; and his granddaughter Nicole Yost, founder and CEO of AstaArts.com in San Diego, California. No memorial service is planned. Mr. Yost’s family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the National Balloon Museum in Indianola, Iowa.
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