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1978: US balloonists' record Atlantic crossing

Three Americans have made the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by hot air balloon.

Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman and Max Anderson took six days to complete the flight from Maine in the US to France.

It was the second attempt for Mr Abruzzo and Mr Anderson after failing to complete the crossing last September in the first Double Eagle.

This time the three men travelled the 3,000 miles (4,800 km) in a 65-foot (20-metre) diameter gondola named The Spirit of Albuquerque powered by a helium-filled balloon.

It was equipped with a catamaran in case of an emergency sea landing as well as computers for navigation and radio gear for communication.

Windy conditions

The Atlantic crossing was achieved officially at just after 2200 on 16 August when Double Eagle II crossed the Irish coast.

But the three pilots wanted to reach le Bourget airfield near Paris, where the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh had once landed.

However, windy conditions in France forced them to overshoot their target.

Instead they landed safely in a wheat field near Miserey about 60 miles (96 km) north west of Paris.

Passing motorists and nearby villagers flocked to congratulate the balloonists - all businessmen from New Mexico.

Souvenir hunters ripped pieces from the balloon before it was salvaged and packed for shipping back to the US along with the gondola.

The most recent attempt before the trio's success was made last month by two Englishmen.

They took off from Newfoundland in Canada but fell short of their goal, Brest in France by just over 100 miles (160 km).

In Context
Before the success of Double Eagle II 18 attempts had been made to cross the Atlantic by balloon with the loss of seven lives.

An airport in the three pilots' home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which opened in October 1983, was named Double Eagle II Airport in honour of their flight.

The Double Eagle II balloon and gondola were returned to the US and put on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

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