Today in aviation history – August 17, 1978

aviation history

Double Eagle IIThe Double Eagle II becomes the first balloon to cross the Atlantic Ocean when it landed in Miserey France, 137 hours and 6 minutes after leaving Presque Isle, Maine.

Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman accomplished the feat after 13 other groups, spanning more than 100 years, failed.  Newman had originally planned on hang glide from the balloon to a landing but the crew was forced to drop the glider a day earlier as ballast.

The balloon was a massive 160,000 feet while the gondola, named “The Spirit of Albuquerque” measured 15 x 7 x 4 1/2 feet.  The name took on extra significance when French officials closed Le Bourget Airfield where Charles Lindbergh landed The Spirit of St. Louis.  For safety reasons, the crew decided not to try for the airfield but continued on to land in a barley field about 60 miles north of the city.

The gondola is displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington’s Dulles Airport.