Benjamin L. "Ben" Abruzzo (June 9, 1930 – February 11, 1985) was an American balloonist and businessman who helped make Albuquerque, New Mexico, into an international ballooning center.[3] He was part of the balloon crews that made the first Atlantic Ocean crossing by balloon in the Double Eagle II and the first Pacific Ocean crossing by balloon in the Double Eagle V.[4]

Ben Abruzzo
Ben Abruzzo.jpg
Ben Abruzzo, 1981
Born(1930-06-09)June 9, 1930
Rockford, Illinois, United States
DiedFebruary 11, 1985(1985-02-11) (aged 54)
Cause of deathAircraft accident
Resting placeGate of Heaven Cemetery Albuquerque, New Mexico[1]
EducationB.S. Business Administration[2]
Alma materUniversity of Illinois
OccupationChairman & president>br>Real estate developer
Employer(s)Alvarado Realty Company
Sandia Peak Ski Company
Known forFirst Atlantic ocean crossing by balloon in the Double Eagle II
First Pacific ocean crossing by balloon in the Double Eagle V
SpousePatty Abruzzo
Children4, including Richard
AwardsCongressional Gold Medal
FAI Diplome Montgolfier
ballooning's highest honor
FAI Gold Air Medal
The gas balloon Double Eagle II over Presque Isle, Maine, attempting to cross the Atlantic
Double Eagle Gondola

LifeEdit

Abruzzo was born in Rockford, Illinois. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a BS in business administration in 1952 and commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Air Force. Abruzzo was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; adopting New Mexico as his home state after leaving military service in 1954. After working at Sandia Corporation, he became chairman and president of Alvarado Realty Company and started working with the local ski resort. Abruzzo became chairman and president of Sandia Peak Ski Company, Sandia Peak Tram Company, and Sandia Peak Utility Company. He also developed the Sandia Heights subdivision of homes around the base of the Sandia Tram.  [2]

Albuquerque International Balloon FiestaEdit

Abruzzo took an interest in hot air ballooning in the early 1970s. In 1972, Abruzzo and other local balloon pilots held the first Albuquerque balloon fiesta with just thirteen balloons launching from a shopping mall parking lot. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is now the largest ballooning event of its kind in the world, with over 600 balloons participating each October.[5]

Double EagleEdit

 
Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman of the Double Eagle II

In 1977 Abruzzo and fellow balloonist Maxie Anderson decided to attempt a crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a helium filled gas balloon named the Double Eagle. The balloon was named in honor of Charles Lindbergh, who in 1927 was the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a small single engined aircraft alone. The flight of the Double Eagle occurred fifty years after Lindbergh's feat, and was the eleventh recorded attempt to make the crossing, which had been an open challenge in ballooning for more than a century. The balloon launched from Marshfield, Massachusetts on September 9. After being blown off course by stormy weather, the team was forced to ditch three miles off the coast of Iceland on September 12, 65+12 hours after taking off. Abruzzo suffered exposure and frostbite during the flight and was forced to abandon the attempt.[6][2]

Double Eagle IIEdit

The Abruzzo and Anderson team, this time with Larry Newman, made a second attempt in the Double Eagle II in 1978. The team took off from Presque Isle, Maine on August 11 and made a successful landing in Miserey, France six days later.[7] ABC Sports aired a short form documentary special about the flight hosted by Bob Beatty entitled "The Spirit of '78: The Flight of DOUBLE EAGLE II". For their efforts, the team was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1979. Later that year, Abruzzo and Anderson piloted together to win the first since WWII International Gordon Bennett Race in the balloon “Double Eagle III”. The Bennett race was suspended in 1939 due to hostilities, not resuming until 1979, with official Gordon Bennett Cup (ballooning) restart in 1983.[2]

Double Eagle VEdit

Abruzzo was also on the Double Eagle V team. The Double Eagle V was the first team to cross the Pacific Ocean in a gas balloon in November 1981. This flight also set a record for longest trip by a team in a balloon.[8]

Death and legacyEdit

Ben Abruzzo died on 11 February 1985 when the Cessna 421 he was piloting crashed near Albuquerque.[9] Abruzzo's wife and four others also died in the crash.[10] Abruzzo's son, Richard Abruzzo, was also a noted balloonist. He too died in an aviation accident.[11]

Creating a foundation, the Abruzzo and Anderson families partnered with the City of Albuquerque and constructed the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum next to the launch field of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The World's most photographed event, Fiesta is held the second week of every October.[2]

Abruzzo had partnered with Robert Nordhaus, a retired lawyer and father[12] of Nobel Prize-winning economist William Nordhaus, to purchase the La Madera Ski Area, now known as Sandia Peak Ski Area, from the Albuquerque Ski Club in 1958. Together, they oversaw many improvements to the resort. Two entities at the resort are named for his famous balloon: a ski run, Double Eagle II; and the ski lodge, Double Eagle II Day Lodge.[13]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Richard Melzer. Buried Treasures Famous and Unusual Gravesites in New Mexico History.
  2. ^ a b c d e "BEN L. ABRUZZO" (PDF). nationalballoonmuseam.com. National Balloon Museam. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  3. ^ "Ben L. Abruzzo (American Balloonist)". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2019. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  4. ^ "Richard Abruzzo (USA)". gasballooning.org. GasBallooning. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  5. ^ "History of Gas Ballooning". Balloonfiesta.com. Archived from the original on September 12, 2007. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  6. ^ Barry, Keith. "Ben Abruzzo | This Day In Tech". Wired.com. Archived from the original on September 29, 2010. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  7. ^ Charles McCarry. Double Eagle. ISBN 0-316-55360-3.
  8. ^ "History of Gas Ballooning". Balloonfiesta.com. Archived from the original on August 2, 2010. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  9. ^ "Famous people who died in aviation accidents". Planecrashinfo.com. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  10. ^ "Attention to Detail". Check-Six.com.
  11. ^ "Bodies of Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis Found in Adriatic Sea" Archived December 8, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, SKY, 6 December 2010
  12. ^ Davenport, Coral (May 10, 2014). "Brothers Battle Climate Change on Two Fronts". The New York Times.
  13. ^ "History of SPSP". Sandia Peak Ski Patrol. Retrieved March 4, 2021.