1858 : First Hot-Air Balloon Flight in Michigan Ends in Tragedy

August 16, 2022 all-day

Ira Thurston, a well-known and experienced balloonist, lifted off from Adrian and completed Michigan’s first hot-air balloon flight by landing seventeen miles away in Riga Township (Lenawee County). While releasing gas after landing, Thurston accidentally let go of one of the hold-down ropes, and the bag shot into the air with the hapless aeronaut desperately clinging to the top. Four hours later the deflated bag came to earth without Thurston, and his bones were found years later only a few miles from the point of the unplanned ascent.

Michigan History

For more information about early balloon flights see Gordon G. Beld, The Early Days of Aviation in Grand Rapids. Charleston, S.C. : History Press, 2012. Available through MelCat.

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