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This month in Scott AFB history: First free balloon ascension at Scott Field

On March 22, 1922, Scott Field witnessed the first ascension of a free balloon: A short trip to Worden, Illinois, in Madison County. At the time, Scott Field was amid a construction boom to become the Army’s Balloon and Airship Training School.

Scott Field lacked permanent balloon facilities and canvas hangars were used until the massive Airship Hangar was completed in 1923. Prior to this, the field had conducted some training with captive balloons, but the historical record is not clear whether these flights took place in late 1921 or early 1922.

The aircrew on the first ascent were commander Chalmers Hall; Maj. Frank Kennedy; Lt. Ashley McKinley; Lt. Angier Foster; and Lt. James Hill. The balloon also carried a wireless telephone.

The initial lighter-than-air training program at Scott Field consisted entirely of free and captive balloon flights, with dirigibles making their initial appearance at Scott Field in 1923.

Information in this piece was sourced from An Illustrated History of Scott AFB 1917-1987 by Betty R. Kennedy, who was with the Military Airlift Command History Office at Scott AFB.

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