Ed Yost, Pioneer Balloonist, Dead At 87

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Paul "Ed" Yost, 87, who designed and flew the first modern hot-air balloon in 1960, died Sunday at his home in Taos, N.M., from natural causes. Yost updated the Montgolfier brothers' concept from the 1700s with modern technology, designing an onboard propane-burner system and incorporating modern materials to build a durable envelope with maneuvering vents and deflation ports for landing. He was a co-founder of Raven Industries, which for many years was the leading manufacturer of sport balloons, and also helped to found the Balloon Federation of America. In 1963, Yost piloted the first balloon flight across the English Channel with crewmember Don Piccard, and in 1976 he attempted to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo. He didn't make it, but he designed and built the Double Eagle II, which made the first Atlantic crossing two years later. He was the recipient of many awards and set numerous aviation records. Yost was working to have a national monument designated near Rapid City, S.D., at the Stratobowl, a site in the Black Hills where stratospheric research balloons were launched in the 1930s. The site has been called the place where the Space Age was born. (Click here for a 2004 NPR interview with Ed Yost at a Stratobowl balloon launch.) Others in the ballooning community have vowed to continue these efforts and to make Yost's dream a reality.