Maxie L. Anderson, left, and Ben L. Abruzzo were the first pilots to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean in a hot-air balloon. Their craft, the Double Eagle II—that's it's sister craft, the Double Eagle III, above—traveled 4,987 kilometers (3,099 miles) in about five days.

Photograph by Dean Conger, National Geographic

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  • On August 17, 1978, the helium-filled balloon Double Eagle II landed in Miserey, France. Five days, 17 hours, and 6 minutes earlier, Double Eagle II took off from Presque Isle, Maine, in the United States. The crew of three Americans became the first to successfully fly a balloon across the Atlantic Ocean, a feat pilots had been attempting for more than 100 years. The crew traveled 4,987 kilometers (3,099 miles), at heights between 1,070 and 7,605 meters (3,500 and 24,950 feet).

    The pilots of Double Eagle II proved that people can travel very long distances by balloon. Two of them, Ben Abruzzo and Larry Newman, crossed the even wider Pacific Ocean (9,283 kilometers, or 5,768 miles) just three years later. By 1999, balloonists Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones completed the first nonstop flight around the world in a balloon.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    balloon Noun

    bag, often made of rubber, filled with air or another gas.

    feat Noun

    accomplishment or achievement.

    helium Noun

    a light, colorless gas with the chemical symbol He.

    pilot Noun

    person who steers a ship or aircraft.