History Timeline 1970's

Photo above: President Richard Nixon. Courtesy National Archives. Right: Statue of Secretariat at Belmont Park, 2014, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.


U.S. Timeline - The 1970s

The Nation in Flux

Sponsor this page for $100 per year. Your banner or text ad can fill the space above.
Click here to Sponsor the page and how to reserve your ad.

  • Timeline

  • 1978 - Detail

    August 17, 1978 - The first balloon, Double Eagle II, to cross the Atlantic Ocean comes to rest in Miserey, France, after one hundred and thirty-seven hours of flight from Presque Isle, Maine.

    Double Eagle II

    Just imagine as you glance into the sky at a time one of those hot air balloons takes a ride above you, that you are flying high above the Atlantic Ocean for one hundred and thirty-seven hours and six minutes, nearly six days. When the Double Eagle II left Presque Isle, Maine on August 12 at 8:43 P.M. EST, three hours late, her crew of pilots Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman, had started on a journey that no man or woman had successfully ever taken before. They left at night, because leaving in the evening meant they would not need to maximize the ballast until the cooling of the next night.

    It was not an easy flight. Three hundred pounds of ice coated the balloon on the night of August 15 over Iceland, causing a drop of twenty-five hundred feet. The morning sun melted it. The next day, atmospheric conditions caused a huge drop, nineteen thousand five hundred feet, leaving the balloon only four thousand feet above the water. A careful ballast check reversed the drop, eventually allowing the balloon to climb to its highest level, twenty-four thousand nine hundred and fifty feet.

    There were offers and a goal to land at Le Bourget Airfield, where Charles Lindburgh had landed, but the crew thought their ballast unable to make it quite that far. So they passed over Ireland, effectively achieving their goal, then touched down in Miserey, France, sixty miles northwest of Paris in the Coquerel farm field of barley. The total miles in flight, three thousand and ninety-nine miles. Larry Newman won the right to sleep in the same bed that Lindbergh slept in at the U.S. Embassy.

    Although it seems as if this feat would have been achieved before, since the history of hot air ballooning dates back to 1783 (see more below), it had not. Fourteen attempts had previously been made; some of those who attempted have never been found, and five have perished. The first, in 1873, only made it forty-five miles.

    Today you can see the gondola of the Double Eagle II balloon at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum annex, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Virginia. The balloon had been constructed by Ed Yost, of South Dakoka. The balloon itself was 160,000 cubic feet large, filled with helium. The gondola, named the Spirit of Albuquerque, was 15 feet by 7 feet by 4.5 feet in size. The total weight of the craft was seven hundred and sixty pounds. What was the average speed of the flight? Twenty-two miles per hour.

    History of the Hot Air Balloon

    The history of a lighter than air craft, with a balloon attached above a gondola, goes back much farther than one would think. It was the first aircraft of any kind, developed in 1783, just as the United States had won its independence in the American Revolution. The manned untethered balloon was first manned by Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent d'Arlandes, on November 21, in Paris, France, designed and constructed by paper manufacturers, Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier. They had taken their clues from Chinese sky lanterns used for signalling and an 18th century aerial apparatus called the Passarola, developed by Portuguese Jesuit priest Bartolomeu de Gusmao.

    The Montgolfier brothers had tested an earlier unmanned and tethered flight on September 19, 1783, which rose for ten minutes. Circa October 15, 1783, Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier climbed aboard the balloon tethered to the ground, for several flights, climbing eighty-five feet. From the beginning, there was interest from the French King, Louis XVI, about manned balloons. Eleven years after the first flight on November 21, 1783, the French would use it in the 1794 Battle of Fleurus, an observation balloon named l'Entreprenant.

    Photo above: Double Eagle II Monument, Presque Isle, Maine, 2005. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Below: Drawing named Tsukiji kaigunsho of a hot air balloon test flight by the U.S. Navy in Japan, 1877, Hiroshige Utagawa. Courtesy Library of Congress. Source Info: "The First Successful Balloon Flight Across the Atlantic," December 1978, National Geographic Magazine; Wikipedia Commons.

    Drawing of a Hot Air Balloon test in Japan

    History Photo Bomb