February 16, 2012 — In late 1861, Virginia residents were shocked to see a manned balloon rise on the horizon, directing Union Army artillery against Confederate positions. More than 150 years later, the Intrepid – a reproduction of that first U.S. aerial combat vehicle — will once again take flight beginning this summer.
Genesee Country Village & Museum, near Rochester, New York, has authorized the building of the world’s only Civil War manned balloon replica. Starting July 4, the piloted balloon—which can carry up to four passengers—will soar as high as 400 feet — that’s 32 stories — above the museum’s 700-acres.
“Our launch of the Intrepid brings to life one of the most unique elements of American history in a manner never before attempted,” said Peter Arnold, GVC&M president and CEO.
“As Civil War remembrances occur across the nation during its 150th anniversary, we believed there was no better time to undertake this initiative. The balloon and the planned Civil War encampment surrounding the launch site further enhance our authentic 19th-century village - the third largest collection of historic buildings in America.”
Conceived by Professor Thaddeus Lowe, the Union Army Balloon Corps was authorized by President Abraham Lincoln in June 1861. The original Intrepid had also foreshadowed the future of military reconnaissance communications. The pilot sent information - troop movements, artillery instructions and more - to the ground via telegraph.
While historically balloons were fueled by hydrogen, the modern Intrepid flies with helium. Like the original Civil War balloons, it is tethered to the ground for optimal convenience and safety.
Approximately 46,000 cubic feet of helium is required to fill the 44-foot-diameter balloon. With its basket, it will be 72 feet tall and will probably be visible for 25 miles around.
Visitors will have the opportunity to book 15-minute flights.
The balloon’s estimated cost of nearly $300,000 has been partially offset by donations
A replica of the first U.S. aerial combat vehicle — the Intrepid balloon – will once again take to the air this summer. The balloon will fly on the grounds of the Genesee Country Village and Museum, located near Rochester, New York.
The Intrepid was the first U.S. aerial combat vehicle. Photo credit: National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution