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Updated: November 7, 2013 00:53 IST

Celebrating a historic flight

Special Correspondent
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(Clockwise from top right) India’s first hydrogen balloon preparing to take off on November 14, 1963; crowd gathered to witness the event; Anil Kumar’s mother, aunts and grandmother watch him board the balloon at Race Course in Bangalore.
(Clockwise from top right) India’s first hydrogen balloon preparing to take off on November 14, 1963; crowd gathered to witness the event; Anil Kumar’s mother, aunts and grandmother watch him board the balloon at Race Course in Bangalore.

November 14 marks the golden jubilee of India’s first flight of hydrogen-filled balloon

Race Course in Bangalore is among the favourite turfs for the horse racing enthusiasts, who flock to it from across the country. But nearly 50 years ago, thousands of school children had eagerly gathered at the Race Course ground to witness the maiden flight of the hydrogen gas-filled balloon which was flown by two Germans with a 14-year-old Indian student. This Children’s Day (November 14) would mark the golden jubilee celebrations of this historic event on Indian soil.

The two German licensed pilots — Hermann Johnnes Scheer and Alfred Schulz — had brought the balloon from Pestalozzi Children’s Village from the then West Germany and flew it with Anil Kumar, then a 14-year-old, in the basket suspended from the balloon. The first balloon flight in India, launched from the Race Course Ground by the then Chief Minister of Mysore State S. Nijalingappa, was in air for 100 minutes. The flight at a height of about 1,800 ft. covered about 20 miles before landing at Cholanayakana Halli on Magadi Road.

To make the occasion more special, the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department brought out a First Day Cover (FDC), and the balloon carried two mail bags containing the FDCs handed over by the then Post Master-General of India D.N. Ramchandani, a press release said. This was carried as Balloon Mail, making it the first balloon mail in the country.

“Since it was the first balloon flight in the country, the two Germans felt it appropriate to carry an Indian student,” the release said. Currently, Mr. Anil Kumar is the chief executive officer of Target Pvt. Ltd. and plans to start a licensed balloon club in Bangalore.

While Scheer, the then Director of Pestalozzi Kinderdorf is no more, Shulz — the other pilot — lives in Sonthofen in Algau, the note said. To commemorate the Golden Jubilee, a celebration is being planned at Pestalozzi Kinderdorf in Wahlwies, Germany, as Shulz and the widow of Scheer will not be able to travel due to advanced age, the release said, adding Mr. Kumar will be taking part in the celebrations.

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