SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The race is on as 17 teams compete in the 66th Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett gas balloon race and will soon pass through Texas and Louisiana.
By Monday afternoon, several teams will begin their flight path over the ArkLaTex. The French team led by pilots Benoit Pelard and Benoit Peterle held a first-place lead as they headed towards Bogata, Texas around 1:45 p.m. A United States balloon piloted by Noah Forden and Brenda Cowlishaw was not far behind as it passed Paris.
Batesville, Ark. resident, and Arkansas Balloon Association member Don Rummel said some of the teams should pass over the Texarkana and Shreveport-Bossier area this afternoon into the evening. Residents across the area captured photos as the balloons passed overhead.
“The balloons that you’ll see flying across the United States as part of the Gordon Bennett race are FAA-registered aircraft and steered by some of the most talented pilots from around the world,” said Sam Parks, Executive Director of Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. “We’re thrilled to host this event and see just how far these pilots can travel.”
The gas balloons began their journey from Albuquerque, NM on Saturday night. Two-person crews monitor the balloons in six-hour shifts from launch until they touch down. The team that manages to make it the farthest distance wins the race.
“The Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett, the FAI World Long Distance Gas Balloon Championship, is the oldest and most prestigious event in aviation and the ultimate challenge for the pilots. It is a story full of adventure, skill, courage, survival and luck. The goal is simple: to fly the furthest non-stop distance from the launch site,” said the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
Gas balloons and hot air balloons vary in a lot of ways from cost to the passengers they can hold and lift. Hot air balloons fly by filling the ‘envelope’ with air that’s a much higher temperature than outside. However, gas balloons fly by pumping helium or hydrogen into the envelope.
From the ground, the balloons appear white and or yellow in color
A live tracking map allows viewers to follow each team’s path and current location.