In 1978 the Atlantic Challenge was finally conquered. 3 pilots; Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman, flew the distance in 137 hours, covering 3,120 miles in the Double Eagle II. The Atlantic balloon flight had finally been successfully flown!
Abruzzo and Anderson unsuccessfully attempted the Atlantic Crossing a year previous in 1977 in the suitably named Double Eagle I. The balloon lifted off from Marshfield, MA on 9th September and landed into the sea 65 hours into the flight, just off of Iceland.
There were some major problems along the way before they crashed. Air currents drove the balloon towards Mount Katahdin, the highest point in Maine but they managed to squeeze past without striking anything. Soon after it started to snow and they entered into a ferocious storm off of Canada. The balloon ascended and descended rapidly and they eventually lost the use of their onboard radio. Things got worse and worse with the balloon having to cope with harsh weather conditions.
Eventually they were so far off course that they decided to abort the mission. They set the envelope free from the balloon and descended towards the ocean. They were picked up by a rescue helicopter. This wasn't to be their last attempt, they would of course come back to try again!
Double Eagle II
By spring 1978 they decided to give the challenge another go. This time they decided to recruit a new pilot and Larry Newman was introduced as the 3rd crew member.
The 3 set of on 11th August from Presque Isle in Maine. The first 4-5 days of the flight went like clockwork, the crew did not experience any of the problems they had had on the previous Double Eagle mission. On 16th August Double Eagle II went through a harrowing experience. The atmospheric conditions surrounding them caused the balloon to drop down to 4,000 feet. Luckily they were saved by the sun, which heated the envelope again and the balloon was able to rise and reach its highest point at 24,900 feet.
Afterwards the flight ran very smoothly from this point on and by the time they had reached the coast of Ireland all 3 knew that this was going to be a successful attempt.
Upon reaching France they began to decend. Nobody had ever landed a transcontinental balloon on dry land before, the 3 pilots were about to make history! They actually touched down just outside a small town called Evereux in a large Barley field. Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman had successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon. They had broken all the previous attempts and had achieved something that no one else had ever done before!
I am just writing to let you know that I had a wonderful flight with your company.. The staff were very helpful and professional and I would have no problem in recommending your company to anyone. In fact I would love to do it again myself.
Many thanks again.