Aug. 11, 1978: Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman, riding in the helium-filled balloon Double Eagle II, launch at 8:42 p.m. from Presque Isle.

After 137 hours and six minutes, they land in a barley field in Miserey, France, about 60 miles northwest of Paris, completing the first successful manned transatlantic balloon flight.

Their gondola, The Spirit of Albuquerque, carries a twin-hull catamaran for an emergency water landing. It also carries a glider intended to be used to aid in the balloon’s descent, but that is jettisoned during flight to reduce the balloon’s weight.

The flight is the 14th known attempt at the feat, and it occurs 205 years after Étienne Mongolfier became the first person in history to take a balloon flight, also in France.

A 1-acre park on Spragueville Road in Presque Isle, located where the Double Eagle II’s flight began, contains a balloon-shaped monument commemorating the flight.

Presented by:

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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