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Aeronaut in the Spotlight: Soaring with Bert Padelt

In the enchanting realm of ballooning, where dreams soar as high as the skies themselves, Bert Padelt’s name resonates with innovation and adventure.

Padelt’s ballooning odyssey commenced in the late 1980s when he crafted his first gas balloon. An accomplished balloon pilot himself, Padelt has introduced a dazzling array of balloons, each destined for epic journeys. From traversing the continental United States to conquering the vast Pacific Ocean and embracing the enigmatic allure of the Atlantic, his balloons have raced with the winds.

Besides being an extraordinary balloon pilot and balloon manufacturer, what sets Padelt apart are the pivotal roles he has played as Systems Director and Launch Director in several record-setting ballooning attempts.  If you’ve heard of the legendary Steve Fossett and his adventurous ballooning attempts, then Bert Padelt was right there in the thick of it all. Except for Fossett’s first ballooning venture, Padelt played crucial roles as the Systems Director in six or seven of Fossett’s audacious exploits, including his triumphant round-the-world flight in 2002, aboard a balloon meticulously crafted by Cameron. Padelt, however, was involved in every step, from design to equipment testing in England, ensuring that every detail was perfect for the ambitious journey.

And now, visualize the balloon piloted by Richard Abruzzo, soaring through the skies and setting the world distance record in the First Solo Transcontinental US Balloon Flight, from San Diego, California, to the Georgia Coast in 2003. That balloon was Padelt’s creation. Abruzzo flew a distance of 2,074 kilometers in 73 hours 20 minutes.

In the world of high-altitude aspirations, Padelt assumed the mantle of launch director for Sir David Hempleman-Adams. He orchestrated the latter’s two awe-inspiring trans-Atlantic flights. The first in a Roziere balloon flight in an open basket, in 2003, as well as the audacious gas balloon flight in an open basket in 2007.

Sir David Hempleman-Adams (Courtesy of Torabhaig Single Malt Whisky)

The 2003 Roziere balloon was built by Cameron, and with Padelt as the launch director, Hempleman-Adams piloted this balloon over a distance of 4427.4 kilometers in 83 hours 17 minutes, setting from New Brunswick, Canada, and touching down in a field in Hambleton, Lancashire, England.

For Hempleman-Adams second crossing of the Atlantic in 2007, Padelt crafted the smallest manned gas balloon system (a mere 37,000 cubic feet!) to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean. Once again, with Padelt as launch director,Hempleman-Adams flew the helium gas balloon from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Nolay, France, covering 4,227 kilometers in 89 hours and 20 minutes. According to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), this flight etched six records in distance and duration into the history books.  

In 2015, Padelt’s genius shone again as he built the Two Eagles Transpacific balloon envelope and served as the launch director for the incredible 10,712-kilometer balloon flight across the vast Pacific Ocean. Piloted by Troy Bradley of the United States and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia, they launched from Saga Prefecture, Japan, on January 25th and made a daring landing in the ocean just four miles off the Baja coast on January 31st. Padelt’s expertise was responsible for the logistics, assembly, launch, and recovery procedures.

One of Padelt’s most remarkable achievements is his gas balloon’s record for the longest flight in the prestigious Gordon Bennett Cup, a gas ballooning competition that began in France in 1906. As of now, his gas balloons hold distance and duration records in an impressive 12 out of the 15 categories.

But Padelt’s creativity doesn’t stop at records and achievements; he’s also the creative genius behind the tetrahedron smoke balloon, a memorable contribution to the 2002 Japanese documentary “Return to Nazca.”

Padelt’s ballooning odyssey has earned him a place in the US Ballooning Hall of Fame. He’s been honored with the FAI Montgolfier Diploma, the highest recognition a balloonist can receive worldwide, and the Balloon Federation of America’s prestigious Shields-Trauger Award in 2015, shared with his wife Joanie, in recognition of their distinguished contributions to gas and hot air ballooning.

Now, Bert Padelt is gearing up for his most audacious adventure yet – a trans-Atlantic balloon crossing aboard a hydrogen balloon in an open basket. In this exhilarating expedition, he will share the tiny basket and the open sky with none other than Sir David Hempleman-Adams and the distinguished Swiss explorer, scientist, and entrepreneur, Dr. Frederik Paulsen.

In an era of advanced communication and technology, where few dare to traverse oceans and circumnavigate the globe by balloon, the Atlantic remains a formidable adversary to even the most seasoned balloon pilots. It’s a realm where the winds and weather hold the reins, where each ascent is a dance with destiny, and every descent is a gamble with the unknown. Despite the odds, Padelt and his illustrious companions are poised to etch their names in the annals of aerial exploration.

In the accompanying or soon-to-be-published interviews with Sitara Maruf, Bert Padelt and Sir David Hempleman-Adams unveil the intricacies of their forthcoming flight and offer a glimpse into the enigmatic world of ballooning. Links included below to related articles.

Please look for updates and track this adventure at the links below.
Updates: https://torabhaig-atlantic-explorer.com/TORABHAIG-DIARY
Track Flight: https://torabhaig-atlantic-explorer.com/

By Sitara Maruf

Related articles / interviews:

Bert Padelt Talks About His Atlantic Explorer Balloon

Balloonists Aim to Cross the Atlantic in a Hydrogen Balloon
Coming up this week: An interview with Sir David Hempleman-Adams!


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We are making changes and  apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you for your patience.