I promised a separate post about Philippe Buron-Pilâtre.  Primarily a journalist by profession, Philippe is, as the English would say, a larger-than-life figure. I have no doubt that, were you to place him in any gathering, he would, with his anarchic but always good-humoured and charming wit, change the dynamics for the better.  Philippe is also a living historical link, for in 1783 his great-grandfather, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier , was the first man to fly in a hot air balloon (Montgolfier’s first success) and, in 1785, he was, more tragically, the first man to die in an air crash, at Wimelle, near Boulogne, whilst attempting to cross the English Channel in a hot air balloon. Philippe very kindly gave me a dedicated copy of the book he wrote about his illustrious ancestor. The story of his great-grandfather would have been enough to keep me fascinated throughout our dinner yesterday evening but I learned that, in addition, Philippe is himself not only a hot air balloonist but the organiser of an annual hot air balloon rally near Metz that is rivalled only by a similar rally in the New Mexico desert near Alberquerque. If you leave aside Icarus and Leonardo de Vinci’s fabled exploits with hang gliders at Fiesole, Philippe’s great-grandfather was probably the first man to fly. Earlier this year, at the Smithsonian in Washington, I gazed on the original Wright Flyer. Meeting Philippe has, in a way, closed the circle; man has come so far, so fast – and he is still accelerating!