Double Eagle II

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Double Eagle II Monument, Presque Isle, Maine
Double Eagle II Gondola

Double Eagle II, piloted by Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman, became the first balloon to cross the Atlantic Ocean when it landed 17 August 1978 in Miserey near Paris, 137 hours 6 minutes after leaving Presque Isle, Maine.

It can be regarded as a successful crossing at the point that the Double Eagle II crossed the Irish coast, on the evening of 16 August, an event that Shannon Airport notified the crew about when it happened. Newman originally intended to hang glide from the balloon to a landing, while Anderson and Abruzzo continued to fly, but the hang-glider had to be dropped as ballast earlier on 16 August.

While flying over France, they heard by radio that authorities had closed Le Bourget Airfield, where Charles Lindbergh had landed, for them. The crew declined the offer as they were running out of ballast and it would be too risky (to themselves and anyone below) to pass over the suburbs of Paris. They landed in a field of barley, owned by Roger and Rachel Coquerel, in Miserey, 60 miles (96 km) northwest of Paris. Television images showed a highway nearby, its shoulders and outer lanes crowded with stopped cars, people sweeping across the farm field to the landing spot. The gondola was protected, but most of the logs and charts were swiped by souvenir hunters.

The flight, the fourteenth known attempt, was the culmination of more than a century of previous attempts to cross the Atlantic Ocean by balloon. Some of the people who had attempted it were never found.

Larry Newman won a draw among the three to sleep in the same bed at the United States embassy that Lindbergh slept in. Cameron and Davey, the British balloonists, feted the trio at a party that included a balloon shaped like the Double Eagle II. The trio and their wives planned to return to the United States aboard the supersonic Concorde. Upon the successful crossing, the trip was accommodated by Air France at no charge to the trio and spouses.

A full chronicle of the voyage can be found in the December 1978 issue of National Geographic.

The Double Eagle II Airport is named for the balloon.

The gondola is displayed at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum annex at Washington Dulles International Airport in the Chantilly area of Fairfax County, Virginia, United States.[1] A monument, containing a model of the balloon, was built to commemorate the Double Eagle II and its Atlantic crossing at the field from where the balloon lifted off (46°37′36.54″N 68°1′16.66″W / 46.6268167°N 68.0212944°W / 46.6268167; -68.0212944).

Statistics[edit]

  • Builder: Ed Yost; Tea, South Dakota
  • Balloon: 160,000 cu ft (4,500 m3) helium-filled; 112 ft (34 m) high, 65 ft (20 m) in diameter
  • Gondola: 15 × 7 × 4½ foot; name "The Spirit of Albuquerque"
  • Equipment: 1 VHF radio, 2 single sideband HF radios, 1 ADF beacon transmitter, 1 amateur band radio, 1 maritime radio, hookup to Nimbus 6 satellite.
  • Total weight: 760 lb (340 kg) empty
  • Take-off: 8:43 p.m. EDT - 11 August (00:42 UTC 12 August)
  • Landing: 7:49 p.m. Western Europe Summer Time - 17 August (17:48 UTC 17 August)
  • Total flight time: 137 hours, 6 minutes (5.7 days)
  • Lowest altitude: 3,500 feet (1,070 m) - 13 August
  • Highest altitude: 24,950 feet (7,605 m) - 16 August
  • Total distance: 4,988 km (3,099 mi)

Previous attempts[edit]

Except for one attempt in 1958 from the Canary Islands, all left from somewhere in North America.

The first recorded attempt in 1873 traveled only 45 miles (72 km). The Rozière balloon balloon The Free Life (attempt #4), carrying Malcolm Brighton, Rodney Anderson, and Pamela Brown, vanished September 1970 in mid-Atlantic while attempting to fly from East Hampton, New York to Europe. The superpressure balloon Light Heart (attempt #6), carrying Colonel Thomas Leigh Gatch, Jr. USAR, disappeared February 1974 after being sighted over the Atlantic while attempting the cross from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Spirit of Man (attempt #7) in 1974 suffered a balloon burst over the New Jersey coast, killing the rider.

The furthest reach yet was achieved by Yost in Silver Fox (attempt #10) in 1976, ditching east of the Azores as the wind carried him in the general direction of Western Sahara. The Double Eagle I (attempt #11), in 1977, ditched west of Iceland, having looped to the east of Greenland.

The Zanussi (attempt #13) in 1978, by Don Cameron and Christopher Davey, came closest to success, ditching 110 miles (180 km) off of France after the gas bag ripped. They had planned another attempt but called it off when the Double Eagle II succeeded.

Total death toll is five, including those on the two flights that vanished.

Source of previous attempt information: National Geographic article, December 1978.

References[edit]