Did You Know the First Transatlantic Balloon Took Off from Maine?
The County isn't always in the news, but when they are, they go big.
The first transatlantic hot air balloon flight in August 1978 launched from Presque Isle, specifically from a large potato field near Spragueville Road, rented from the farmer who owned it for $100, according to The County.
The Double Eagle II was the 14th flight attempt recorded and the second of its name to attempt the Transatlantic voyage, the newspaper stated. It followed the Double Eagle I that launched from Marshfield, MA the year prior, which was forced to land in Iceland due to dangerous weather conditions. The Double Eagle II landed six days later in a town near Paris, France, according to The County
Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman hailed from Albuquerque, New Mexico to fly the balloon across the Atlantic, and Presque Isle local Larry Park remembers the nervous excitement in the air that day, he told the paper. He gathered his wife and five kids along the road in his truck to watch the gas-powered balloon prepare for its 8:45pm launch, alongside roughly 8,000 others, according to the County.
“At 4 when they began filling the balloon, there were cars lined up alongside the road and in the field,” Park said. “The balloon filled up awful slow.”
Park contributed to the balloon's iconic image with a small sign that read, "Quality Maine Potatoes" in red, white, and blue. He was surprised and tickled to see his sign shown in pictures of the balloon's successful flight, featured in Sports Illustrated, the newspaper stated.
As thousands in Maine watched the balloon take flight for its voyage, they were told to crank their radios and open their car doors.
"They played 'The Star-Spangled Banner,'" Park recalled to The County. More than 40 years later, the image sticks sticks. "It was quite the event," Park said in the article.