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Larry Newman, 31, was one of three Americans who took off from Presque Isle, Maine in a helium balloon, Double Eagle II, for the first successful transatlantic crossing by balloon on this date in 1978. The Double Eagle II was 112 feet high, 65 feet in diameter, with a 15’x7’x4½’ gondola named The Spirit of Albuquerque. The underside of the gondola was a twin-hulled catamaran to provide emergency flotation for any unplanned water landing. The trip ended in Miserey, France on August 17th — with Newman wearing proudly tee shirt with “Mazel Tov” in Hebrew letters. The team was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1979. Seventeen previous failed attempts to cross the Atlantic Ocean by balloon had led to seven deaths. In 1981, Newman flew the Double Eagle V in the first successful manned balloon crossing over the Pacific Ocean. He also helped popularize hang gliding and ultra-light planes with his Electra Flyer Corporation, and worked as a commercial airline pilot. Newman died in 2010.
“He had a penetrating gaze to go along with a cocky Joker’s smile that could easily intimidate you with his abundance of self confidence.” —James Newman, Hanger Flyin’ blog