Cameron Balloons History

Bristol Belle

In 1967 aeronautical engineer Don Cameron and some of his friends built and flew the “Bristol Belle”, the first modern hot-air balloon in Western Europe. He then founded Cameron Balloons Ltd. to manufacture balloons for others. Starting from a small workshop in the basement of his home, expansion and innovation over the next few years was rapid.

In 1972 the company built the world’s first hot-air airship. In the same year, it built the world’s largest hot air balloon (140,000 cu.ft) which was used to make the first hot-air balloon crossing of the Swiss Alps.

In 1975 the company again built the world’s largest hot-air balloon (500,000 cu.ft) sponsored by Heineken. It had a two-storey basket and carried 30 people. Don Cameron used this to make a record-breaking flight across the English Channel, which was honoured by an award of the Harmon Trophy, presented in the White House, Washington.

In 1977 the first special-shape hot-air balloon was produced by Cameron Balloons Ltd.. Since then hundreds of special-shape balloons have been built. The company has developed computer design programs to make almost any shape possible and remains the largest manufacturer of special shapes as well as being the largest manufacturer of all types of balloon.


In 1978, Don Cameron, with Christopher Davey attempted the first crossing of the Atlantic by balloon using a combination hot-air and gas balloon. They flew for four days and unfortunately came down only 100 miles short of the coast of France. But the development of the combination balloon was to have very productive consequences.

In 1985 Cameron Balloons Ltd. built the world’s largest balloon again, this time an 850,000 cu,ft. monster carrying 50 people in a two storey-basket. This record has never been broken (Plans exist to make a 100 person balloon, but that has not yet been realised!)

The business continued to grow rapidly during the 1980s and, in 1989, the company was awarded the Queen’s Award for export. Throughout its history Cameron Balloons Ltd. has exported more than 85% of its production.

In 1990, the combination helium and hot-air balloon was used for the first (and only) balloon flight from England to the Soviet Union and in 1992 the same design was used for five balloons which competed in the first Transatlantic Balloon Race.

In 1999, the Breitling Orbiter, built by Cameron Balloons Ltd. flew around the world, starting in Switzerland and landing in Egypt twenty days later. The balloon was based on the combination principle, but many innovations were required to ensure the temperature control of the gas. The gondola too, required much new technology as a pressurised, life-support system able to work for three weeks had to be developed.

Breitling Orbiter

Two years later, Steve Fossett made the first solo balloon flight around the world using a similar Cameron balloon. Cameron Balloons hold the records for the longest duration and the longest distance flown by any aircraft in the earth’s atmosphere.

In 2005 Vijaypat Singhania, aged 67 at the time, gained the world altitude record of 70000 feet for hot-air balloons for India in a specially designed Cameron balloon. This remains the world record for altitude.

These technical challenges have given the Cameron Balloons Ltd. design and production teams a set of skills which are also applied to many fabric engineering projects.