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Program Articles

May 27, 2010

Gas Ballooning at Balloon Fiesta


Some innovative events in Albuquerque have focused on guest appeal, and several have become permanent fixtures of Balloon Fiesta. One of those fixtures is a gas balloon event. In 1981, gas balloons were invited to participate.


Some innovative events in Albuquerque have focused on guest appeal, and several have become permanent fixtures of Balloon Fiesta. One of those fixtures is a gas balloon event. In 1981, gas balloons were invited to participate. This invitation continued for the next 5 years. In 1993 the Balloon Fiesta hosted the 37th Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett (world’s most prestigious gas ballooning event). The 8th World Gas Balloon Championship followed the next year in 1994. The next year, Mark Sullivan, recipient of the Montgolfier Diplome (one of ballooning’s highest honors) founded the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race. This marked a new beginning for gas ballooning in the United States. This race was modeled after the Gordon Bennett; the team flying the longest distance wins. Unlike the Gordon Bennett the America’s Challenge is open to all countries with no limit on the number of entries per country.

With the cooperation and participation of members of the world's best gas balloon teams, Mark Sullivan inaugurated the event during the 1995 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Under a moonlit sky, 13 teams representing 5 countries flew through the first night, reporting spectacular views back to the race officials. By the second night all had landed safely, with the American team of Richard Abruzzo and David Melton claiming victory... a fitting conclusion to the first international gas balloon race originated in America and last gas balloon race established in the 20th century. In 1999, Balloon Fiesta again hosted the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett.

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