- Gordon Bennett Cup in ballooning
The Gordon Bennett Cup in ballooning is the world's oldest and most respected gas balloon race first run on September 30, 1906 in
Paris, France. The event was sponsored by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the millionaire sportsman and owner of the " New York Herald" newspaper.Inaugurated at a time when powered air flight was in its infancy, Bennett wanted to encourage the technical development in this field and in 1909 created a special competition open to powered flying machines.
The winner of the first ballooning event was American,
Frank Purdy Lahmwho, along with his balloon co-pilot Henry Herseyflew just over 400 miles to the northeast coast of England. In 1907, St. Louis, Missouriwas host to the first ever Gordon Bennett Cup race to be held in the United States. In 1908, the Swiss winners set a world duration record of 73 hours aloft, a standard that would not be broken until 1995. In 1910, the winning balloon flew 1,887 kilometres from St. Louis, to northern Quebecin Canada. It took the two pilots, Alan Ramsay Hawley and Augustus Post, four days to walk back to civilization.
After being interrupted by
World War I, the race was held every year until the outbreak of the Second World War. It was not revived until 1983 when the International Aeronautical Federation reinstated the popular race with the winning country usually hosting the following year's competition.
On September 12, 1995, three
gas balloons participating in the race entered Belarusian air space. Despite the fact that race organizers informed the Belarusian Government about the race in May and that flight plans had been filed, the Belarusian air force shot down one balloon, killing two American citizens. Among the other two balloons, one was forced to land while the third balloon landed safely (because of deteriorating weather) over two hours after the downing. The crews of the two balloons were fined for entering Belarus without a visa and released. Belarus to date has not apologized or offered compensation for these killings (see [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5371.htm] [http://www.balloonlife.com/publications/balloon_life/9510/tragedy.htm] ).
* [http://www.coupegordonbennett.org/ Gordon Bennett Cup official website]
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