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Mass balloon launch soars to record

A hot air balloon festival in eastern France broke two records in as many days - first by sending up 408 piloted balloons in an hour, then by lining up 391 balloons on runways and sending them up together.

The sound of hundreds of gas burners blasting simultaneously is extraordinary, said Denis Martignon, a pilot who flew both days at a former Nato airfield.

"It was an impressive wall of balloons," he said.

The annual Lorraine Mondial Air Balloons is organised by a descendent of the 18th century aeronautics pioneer Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier who took up the family hobby. Philippe Buron Pilatre has been piloting balloons since 1979.

"My father flew. My son flies. My brother flies. Someday my grandson might fly," he said.

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