Breaking The Records
Trans Atlantic Crossing
02nd-03rd July 1987
Distance: 4,920 km (3,075 miles)
Duration: 31 hours and 41 minutes
Teaming up with Richard Branson, Per Lindstrand made a bid to fly a hot air balloon across the Atlantic. His proposal for the Atlantic crossing was to fly high and fast in the jet stream from Maine, USA to the British Isles. The giant hot air balloon which he built at his factory in Oswestry would lift himself and Branson high into the jetstream. The pressurised aluminium capsule was surrounded with propane fuel tanks to feed the burners and once up to altitude, the heat of the sun kept the balloon up during the day with the burners taking over at night.
After a year of hard work and long hours the Virgin Atlantic Flyer left the factory for America in early June, on time for the midsummer flight from its launch site at ‘Sugar Loaf’ inland from the coast of Maine. On the evening of the 1st July the massive balloon was inflated with ground fans and hand-held burners until it rotated to stand vertical over the capsule. In the early hours of the 2nd July Per and Richard rose into the sky heading for the jetstream at 27,000 feet. Travelling at over 130 knots the balloon headed straight into an Atlantic cold front. Holding the altitude and riding it out 4 hours later Per, Richard and the balloon burst through the gloom into evening sunshine. Thirty two hours after take off they crossed the coast of Northern Ireland and, due to fog conditions in Scotland, their defined route, they decided to put down in Ireland.
With a strong offshore wind they overshot the beach and came down in the sea half a mile offshore. With the imminent danger of the capsule filling with water and submerging Per and Richard decided to abandon ship and jumped into the sea being rescued by helicopter.
The 75,000 cubic metre Virgin Atlantic Flyer had taken off from America on the 2nd of July and landed 3,075 miles away in Ireland 31 hours and 41 minutes later on the 3rd, travelling at an average speed of 97mph. These figures shattered the existing standard of long distance ballooning and set a whole new benchmark as well as proving Per’s concept that a pressurized capsule could allow a massive balloon to fly high and fast into the jetstream where the sun provided thermal lift.
Ballooning would never be the same again.