Book article about the 37th Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett

From the Book: Die Gordon Bennett Ballon Rennen
(The Gordon Bennett Races) by Ulrich Hohmann Sr

After 60 years absence the race has returned to the United States of America. A country, in which so much Gordon Bennett history had been written. Let’s remember the victories of Oscar Erbslöh (1907) and Hans Gehricke (1911), or the American winners Frank Lahm (1906), Edgar W. Mix (1909), Alan Hawley (1910), Ralph Upson (1913), Edward Hill (1927), William Kepner (1928) or T.G.W. Settle (1932). Of course, legendary Ward T. van Orman, winner in 1926, 1929 and 1930 must not be missing. Outstanding pilots and superior technology have made those victories possible in those days. Now Gordon Bennett Race Gordon Bennett Races have existed again for 10 years, but outstanding performance or even victories of American teams could not have been achieved until 1992. Why? Gas ballooning in the USA never really awoke from its long sleep after World War II. The use of hydrogen was forbidden after the catastrophe of the “Hindenburg” at Lakehurst on May 6th, 1937. Helium was very expensive, as long as it was not produced commercially in a large scale Coal gas never played the same role as in Europe since the USA had large deposits of natural gas. Also, in the 1960’s, researched at the Pentagon and NASA resulted in the modern hot air balloon which soon became a new sport. The hot air balloon had more flexibility than the placid and easy going gas balloon, so somehow it fit better to the fast moving mentality of the “American way of life”. So it took until the 1980’s for some people to remember a nostalgic mood, that flying balloons could mean more than hanging under (at that time still very) loud burners for a maximum of two hours. But, the advantage in technology and experience, once possessed by American pilots was gone. It was the toughness of a David Levin, Mike Wallace and others, to catch up again. They were not discouraged by setbacks and competed in Europe years after years despite the high expenses. Now their efforts would bear fruit. See the article by Erwin A. Sautter, tireless “Swiss correspondent” of German balloon magazines and the report from Joschi Starkbaum and the report from Rainer Röhsler.

Return to 37th Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett