Ben Abruzzo

A ballooning pioneer who soared into history by crossing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Ballooning great Ben Abruzzo was born June 9, 1930 in Rockford, Illinois and gained fame as the first man to pilot a balloon across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

In 1978, Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman set a duration record of 137 hours, five minutes and 30 seconds in Double Eagle II – the first balloon to cross the Atlantic.

In 1981, Abruzzo piloted Double Eagle V across the Pacific from Nagashimi, Japan to Mendocino National Forest in California. It was the first balloon to cross the Pacific, and set a distance record of 5,768 miles.

That same year, President Ronald Reagan awarded a special gold medal to Abruzzo – along with Anderson and Newman – for their accomplishments.

Abruzzo was killed in a plane crash in 1985. He was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.