Larry Newman, Balloonist AUGUST 28, 1978

Feb. 18, 2002
Feb. 18, 2002

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Feb. 18, 2002

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Larry Newman, Balloonist AUGUST 28, 1978

By Tim Alan Smith

In August 1978, 51 years after the Lone Eagle, Charles Lindbergh,
made the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic, in The
Spirit of St. Louis, the Double Eagle II helium balloon
captivated millions by sailing from Presque Isle, Maine, to a
wheat field near Miserey, France. "Imagine if a mugger with a
.357 magnum pulls the trigger, and the gun goes click," says
Larry Newman, who captained Double Eagle II along with Ben
Abruzzo and Maxie Anderson, attempting to articulate his feelings
about completing the Atlantic crossing that had killed five
balloonists since '58. "You think you're going to die, but you
hear that click and you run away."

This is an article from the Feb. 18, 2002 issue Original Layout

Newman has run away from the gun's click more than once. The
loudest click came in 1995, when, while making a jump in a
skydiving competition, his parachute became entangled with that
of another skydiver, and he went into a 60-foot free fall that
ended when he hit the ground. That should have made him the third
member of the Double Eagle II crew to die in a flying
mishap--Anderson perished in a balloon accident over Germany in
'83, and two years later Abruzzo died in a plane crash--but
remarkably Newman escaped with a fractured skull and other broken

Newman has always pushed the limits: He learned to fly a plane at
14, mastered hang gliding both as a participant and as a builder
in the early 1970s, and was a member of the crew that first
crossed the Pacific in a balloon, in '81. He also took part in
three unsuccessful around-the-world attempts. Newman even met his
friend and mentor Abruzzo when he mistakenly landed his hang
glider in Abruzzo's front yard in Albuquerque in '74. His
near-fatal skydiving accident changed his outlook. "I didn't see
a white light or anything, but I realized what I didn't want to
do," Newman, 54, says. "Instead of enjoying myself and other
people, I had wanted to drive the fastest car, fly the highest
airplane, make the most money. I realized that having good
friends is what's important."

A year after his accident he was back at his job as a pilot for
America West Airlines. He stopped flying in 1998 and invested in
a friend's start-up telecommunications company, but a grounded
Newman was an unhappy Newman. He got back in the air, flying
cargo to Europe and South America for Florida West Airlines. "I'm
interested in meeting people, understanding cultures and having
new experiences," says Newman, an avid fly fisherman, "but I
close my eyes sometimes and picture the stuff we saw and talked
about on that flight across the Atlantic, and it's an emotional
high that I can't begin to describe."

--Tim Alan Smith

COLOR PHOTO: AP PHOTO (COVER) Newman says his journey across the Atlantic was "an emotional high that I can't begin to describe."COLOR PHOTO: DAVID WALBERG