Don Cameron (balloonist)
Don Cameron in the 1970s (Top Right)
Early life and career
Born in Glasgow in 1939, Cameron went to school at Allan Glen's School and then went on to study aeronautical engineering at the University of Glasgow, graduating in 1961. In 1963 he obtained a Masters degree at Cornell, United States. He then joined the Bristol Aeroplane Company. Cameron developed Britain's first modern hot air balloon entitled Bristol Belle which flew for the first time at Weston on the Green in Oxfordshire, England on 9 July 1967. In 1968 Cameron and Leslie Goldsmith founded Omega Balloons which constructed ten balloons, before the company split into Cameron Balloons and Western Balloons in 1970.
Cameron Balloons of Bristol, England, was formed by Cameron in 1971 - five years after he constructed his first balloon. The new company was based in Cotham, Bristol where a total of twenty nine balloons were made in the basement of the property. 1971 also saw Cameron build Golden Eagle, a balloon designed specifically to fly across the Sahara to shoot a film for Jack Le Vien.
In 1978 his attempt to make the premier Atlantic crossing by balloon ended when bad weather forced his heated helium balloon "Zanussi" down after a 2,000 mile flight from Canada. It was piloted by Cameron and Christopher Davey. They left St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador on 26 July 1978, covered 1,780 miles, and ditched on 30 July 1978 in the Bay of Biscay only 110 miles from France after a tear developed in the balloon. The two planned a second attempt, but discarded their plans when the Double Eagle II successfully made a transatlantic flight three weeks later.
Never averse to technical challenges, Cameron went on to write computer programmes to design specially shaped balloons himself.
Cameron has received the gold, silver and bronze medals of the British Royal Aero Club for his ballooning achievements which include being the first man to cross the Sahara and the Alps by hot-air balloon, and making the first flight between the UK and the former USSR in 1990.
Don Cameron has also been one of the few aeronauts to be awarded the Harmon Trophy.
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