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Balloons over Britain








Some of the most famous attempts at crossing the Atlantic throughout the 1970s.

1. FREE LIFE - September 20th 1970

In 1970 Malcolm Brighton, an English balloon pioneer, teamed up with an American couple named Anderson to attempt a west-east crossing of the Atlantic. The flight was the first example of a combined hot air and helium balloon (built by Mark Semich of Semco Balloons). They took off on September 20th and ditched 30 hours later in a harsh storm just off Newfoundland. All 3 crew died and there was never any wreckage found.

2. YANKEE ZEPHYR - August 7th 1973

On August 7, 1973, Bobby Sparks set off in Yankee Zephyr, another balloon operating on the hot air/helium combination and featuring a gondola based on that of Small World. It was the first attempt from Bar Harbour, Maine. The flight was terminated by a violent storm after 23 hours and Sparks was rescued.

3. LIGHT HEART - February 18th 1974

The first 'jet stream' attempt was made by Thomas Gatch using a cluster of 10 super pressure helium balloons built by Raven. The theory followed ideas originating from those of John Wise and should have worked because the balloons used were well tried and tested in carrying large amounts for long periods. Unfortunately, Mr. Gatch crashed into the ocean and no wreckage was found.

4. WINDBORNE - January 6th 1975

Malcolm Forbes used a formidable combination of design, planning and money for his second high altitude attempt in January 1975. But the weather was once again against him! His vessel became uncontrollable at take off and the cluster of helium filled balloons was cut loose to save the pilots' lives.

5. ODYSSEY - August 21st 1975

Undeterred by his first failure, Bobby Sparks lifted off again in the Odyssey on 21st August 1975. He was accompanied by a stowaway, his chief ground crewman, which added an unexpected weight to the balloon. Unfortunately, the flight lasted only 2 hours before Sparks was once again in the ocean!

6. SPIRIT OF '76 - June 25th 1976

Odysseys' gondola was recovered with the return on a loan given to the unsuccessful venture. The refitted gondola, attached to the 4th Semich built envelope to make an Atlantic attempt, set off from Lakehurst, New Jersey, an old airship base. Spirit of '76 was forced down by a storm 550 miles later and Thomas was luckily rescued by a Russian Trawler.

7. SILVER FOX - October 5th 1976

If seven is a lucky number then it didn't quite live up to its promise for Ed Yost who made the 7th modern attempt on the Atlantic Crossing. Silver Fox was the first Yost built balloon to make the attempt. Ed lifted off on October 5th 1976, smashed all the records set a staggering 18 years before by Small World (see above), and he seemed well on his way to a successful run straight to Europe. Bad luck and a change in the wind direction brought this man, one of the inventors of the modern hot air balloon, down in mid ocean, 700 miles from Europe. All was certainly not lost though as his new distance record was set at 2474 miles!

8. DOUBLE EAGLE - September 9th 1977

The first attempt from the combined team of Maxie Anderson and Ben Abruzzo, 2 pilots from New Mexico, nearly ended in disaster when they crashed into a stormy ocean off Iceland. They had flown Double Eagle (another Yost built craft) for 64 hours and 2950 miles. Such a lucky survival should have convinced them to give up, but they were of course to try again. See The Atlantic Conquered for more information.

9. EAGLE - October 10th 1977

The 3rd Yost built envelope to be used on an Atlantic crossing attempt lifted off from Bar Harbour, Maine, on October 10th 1977. The 86,000 cubic feet balloon piloted by Reinhard and Stevenson covered a mere 220 miles in 46 hours before crashing in yet another storm.


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