The first aerial crossing of the English Channel is a tale of humor, but also of courage. In 1785, ballooning as a method of human flight had begun to gain acceptance and popularity, although the first ever balloon flight had only been completed two years earlier in 1783. Two men at the forefront of the technological advance determined that they would be the first to cross the English Channel by balloon, and on 7 January 1785, they did just that. The first was a Frenchman named Jean-Pierre Blanchard. Blanchard had a reputation for being egotistical and quite mean-spirited. After ballooning...

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