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L'Intrépide on display at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum.
L'Intrépide or Hércule flown at the siege of Mainz (1795); print of 1890.

L'Intrépide ("The Intrepid") was a hydrogen balloon of the French Aerostatic Corps and is the oldest preserved aircraft in Europe.[1]

L'Intrépide was the larger[2] of two observation balloons, the other being Hercule ("Hercules"), issued to the Aerostatic Corps in June 1795. These balloons were used by the Corps's first company attached to General Jourdan's Army of Sambre-et-Meuse in 1796. When that army was defeated by Austrian forces at the Battle of Würzburg on 3 September 1796, the balloon was captured and brought to Vienna, where it is now on display at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum.

The balloon's silk envelope is roughly spherical and has a diameter of 9.8 metres (32 ft). Its wooden gondola is very small, measuring 1.14 metres (45 in) by 0.75 metres (30 in) and its railing has a height of 1.05 metres (41 in).[2] The hull displayed in the museum is a replica, with the original displayed in a glass box nearby.[1]


  1. ^ a b Information plaque displayed in the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum: "Da es sich hierbei um das älteste noch bekannte Luftfahrzeug Europas handelte, mußte nicht zuletzt aus Rücksicht auf konservatorische Bedingungen die originale Ballonhülle entsprechend gesondert untergebracht werden."
  2. ^ a b Duhem, Jules (1964). Histoire de l’arme aérienne avant le moteur. Paris: Nouvelles Éditions latines. p. 429.