Benjamin L. Abruzzo (b. June 9, 1930 at Rockford, Illinois, d. February 11, 1985 at Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Ben Abruzzo was an American hot air balloonist and businessman. He helped place Albuquerque on the map as the balloon capital of the world.
Abruzzo was born in Rockford, Illinois. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1952 then entered the United States Air Force. After graduation, Abruzzo was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. He would adopt New Mexico as his home state after leaving military service in 1954.
Abruzzo took an interest in hot air ballooning. He was on the crew of the Double Eagle I in 1977. After the five deaths in the early 1970s, many believed the Dougle Eagle I would become the first balloon to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, Abruzzo suffered exposure and Iceland and was forced to abandon the attempt.
The team, this time with Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman, made a second attempt in the Double Eagle II in 1978. The team took off from Presque Isle, Maine on August 11 and made a successful landing in Misery, France six days later. For their efforts, the team was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1979.
Abruzzo was also on the Double Eagle V team. The Double Eagle V was the first team to cross the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon in November 1981. This flight also set a record for longest trip by a team in a balloon breaking.
Unfortunately, Abruzzo died a few years later when his private plane crashed near Albuquerque. His name lives on in the new Anderson-Abruzzo International Ballooning Museum that is under construction in Albuquerque. His son, Richard, is also a noted balloonist who continues to fly today.