After a season's hiatus, the museum’s celebrated gas balloon—the Intrepid—is flying again!
Condemned to ground duty last season, the previous winter's fierce weather had done enough minor damage to warrant revoking its flying privileges.
But now, after some minor redesign and repair, it is good as new and ready to soar again.
Flying times are 10 am-4 pm Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting. Cost is $25/$20 members. No reservations required. Just come on out and fly!
The one-of-a kind, Civil War-era helium-filled balloon—the Intrepid—took its maiden flight on July 4, 2012, taking passengers some 300 feet above the museum’s South Field, where it is surrounded by a Civil War encampment.
Conceived by Professor Thaddeus Lowe, the Union Army Balloon Carps was authorized by Abraham Lincoln in June 1861. Like its namesake, the Intrepid bares the image of the then-popular Gen. George McClellan below a flying eagle. Its name is inscribed on the balloon’s reverse.
While historically balloons were inflated with hydrogen, the modern Intrepid uses helium. Just two weeks before its inaugural flight, the Intrepid looked like it would be grounded due to a world-wide helium shortage.
But Macy’s, the nation’s second-largest user of the gas with its traditional Thanksgiving Day Parade, delivered a last-minute miracle—50,000 cubic feet of helium.
When inflated, the balloon has a 44-foot diameter and, like the original Civil War balloons, it is tethered to the ground for optimal convenience and safety.
The Civil War-era balloon replica, is the subject of a made-for-television documentary. DVDs are available online. Preview the video.
The Intrepid story
History of the Army Balloon Corps
President Lincoln and the Balloon Corps audio tour
Balloon Warfare audio tour
Balloon Technology audio tour
The museum and Wehle gallery are now open 10 am-4 pm Tues-Sun and May 26 & Oct. 13. Nature center trails are open 10 am-4 pm weekends.