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A brief history of trans-Atlantic balloon crossings

21/09/2022 Jo Bailey Hot Air Balloon History

The hot air balloon is not a new invention. It dates all the way back to the 1700s and, from early on, balloonists dreamed of piloting one across the Atlantic. What they did not realise is that this would remain only a dream for a very long time.

Earliest attempts

Almost from the moment that the first successful hot air balloon flights were accomplished around 1783, thoughts turned to a trans-Atlantic crossing. The talk during the next few years provided enough hot air to fuel hundreds of balloons, but no actual attempt was made.

It took until 1859 for someone to actually try to get across the ocean in a balloon and it sparked a rash of other failed bids up to the close of the century. In that 40-year period, seven balloons – including the Great Northwest, the Daily Graphic (which was backed by wealthy sponsors), the Great Western and the Atlantic – made attempts.

20th century bids

That was that for trans-Atlantic balloon bids until midway through the new century. This had brought much greater interest in the idea of hot air ballooning for sport and travel.

By 1919, both a dirigible and an aeroplane had successfully completed a trans-Atlantic flight, but not a balloon. What would have added to the frustrations of the new breed of sporting balloonists was the fact that a balloon had made it all the way over the English Channel as far back as 1785.

Few would have thought then that, nearly two centuries later, an Atlantic crossing would remain elusive. Following the failure of a 1958 attempt, there were to be another six bids to complete the crossing in the next 20 years.

All of them ended in disappointment, for reasons that ranged from bad weather to problems with the hot air balloon itself.

Success at last

Finally, in 1978, the first successful trans-Atlantic balloon flight was made. Three wealthy US businessmen who shared a passion for balloons – Maxie Anderson, Larry Newman and Ben Abruzzo – took to the air at Presque Isle, Maine in a balloon called Double Eagle II on 11th August.

The vessel enjoyed a calm and largely uneventful 137 hours and 6 minutes in the air, before landing in a French barley field.

Here at Bailey Balloons, we may not do trans-Atlantic flights, but we do offer the chance to fly a hot air balloon over Bristol and Bath. Get in touch now to book your flight.

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