1970sABCHighlightsSpecialsWide World of Sports

Special – 1978 – The Flight of Double Eagle II – A TransAtlantic Hot Air Balloon Adventure


Double Eagle II was piloted by Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman….as it became the first balloon to cross the Atlantic Ocean….when it landed August 17, 1978 in Miserey (near Paris)  137 hours 6 minutes after leaving Presque Isle, Maine….for it could have been regarded as a successful crossing at the point that the Double Eagle II crossed the Irish coast on the evening of August 16th….as an event that Shannon Airport in Ireland notified the crew about when it happened…..cuz Larry Newman had originally intended to hang glide from the balloon to a landing….while Anderson and Abruzzo continued to fly on to France….but the hang-glider had to be dropped as ballast earlier on August 16th.    

While flying over France….the Double Eagle II crew heard by radio that authorities had closed Le Bourget Airfield for them….for this was where Charles Lindbergh had landed in his historic transatlantic flight in The Spirit of St. Louis….but 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….so, they landed in a field of barley in Miserey some 60 mi (97 km) northwest of Paris. Television images showed a highway nearby with its shoulders and outer lanes crowded with stopped cars….while people were everywhere sweeping across the farm field to the landing spot….which resulted in the gondola being protected….but most of the logs and charts were stolen by souvenir hunters.    

The flight of Double Eagle II was the 14th known attempt….which 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….while British balloonists Don Cameron and Christopher Davey 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….which 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….and 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   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.  

In January 2015, the crew of the Two Eagles Balloon completed a flight across the Pacific Ocean….as their flight duration of 160 hours and 34 minutes record was verified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale…..which officially broke the time-aloft record of the Double Eagle II.   

Once again, ImaSportsphile is proud to have this incredible video of this historic balloon transatlantic crossing as just another significant treasure in our vintage video library. 

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