Richard Abruzzo made the first transcontinental solo balloon flight in the USA

Richard AbruzzoHe flew from Torrey Pines, San Diego in California to Waverley, Georgia in 73 hours 20mins, a distance of 2074kms. The balloon was gas balloon Abruzzo GROM-1. Reg. N96YD,landing on February 5th 2003. On the weekend of the flight, the equipment was driven to California from Albuquerque by crewmembers Leonard Saiz and Jeremy Dorcas. They also provided the retrieve for the flight. The sandbags were filled and the system was assembled on Saturday. It all finally came together and the balloon was launched exactly at 12:00 noon PST.

The launch was witnessed by a number of spectators who were at the Gliderport. As the balloon lifted off, it travelled first to the east and then gradually curved to the south and even a little west and then off in a southeast direction over Tijuana, Mexico. Richard’s flight was eventful, using information to clear many restricted areas.

Abruzzo GROM-1. Reg. N96YDAfter nearly 3 days, with ballast at a premium, Richard planned the final stage of the flight; a descent from over 17,000 feet to a sea level landing. The surface winds were forecast to be from the north. A descent too slow would take the balloon out over the Atlantic Ocean. A descent too fast would be uncomfortably close to the current record. On the way down the speed slowly decreased from a peak of 57 mph and the balloon began to turn south. Nearing the surface, Richard confirmed with John and Ray that the record was achieved and he could look for a landing site.

The surface winds did carry the balloon to the south and slightly west, but only by a couple of miles. The landing occurred at 4:20 p.m. EST Wednesday evening, just over 73 hours after launch. A total of 2079 statute miles from Torrey Pines had been covered. The balloon was lodged in soft pines with the gondola and Richard safely on the ground. The crew arrived somewhat later and with the sun already below the horizon, the decision was made to leave the system until morning.

Richard, like his Father Ben, was an adventurer and a record breaker, and the whole world was devastated when he and Carol Rymer Davis lost their lives during the 2010 Gordon Bennett Race.

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