Fiesta in the Sky
An international long-distance gas balloon championship, the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett, is set to take to the skies tomorrow from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The race is returning to the US after 15 years as part of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, which features nearly 600 balloons and draws hundreds of thousands of spectators each October. The Gordon Bennett race has been held 13 times in the US, with this year marking the fifth time it's being held in Albuquerque.
The 17 teams from nine countries will embark on a race across America's airspace using hydrogen-filled gas balloons with the goal of traveling the farthest without landing—the record from Albuquerque was set in 2017 by a Swiss team at 2,275.87 miles. They will be in the air for about 50-65 hours, carrying all necessary supplies and navigating through the Midwest toward the Northeast and possibly Canada.
The entire event is enhanced by the "Albuquerque box," a wind pattern that blows north at one elevation and south at another, allowing pilots to launch, cover substantial distances, change altitude, and return close to the starting point. Track the race live here.