PARIS -- Three American businessmen-adventurers who have made history's first trans-Atlantic balloon flight reached France today and radioed for hamburgers and French fries when they land.
The balloonists said they hoped the wind would carry their helium-filled Double Eagle II along the historic route of Charles Lindbergh half a century ago to Le Bourget airport just outside Paris.
At 4 p.m. (10 a.m. EDT) the Americans, who had earlier crossed over southwest England, were sighted over the port of Le Havre, 100 miles northwest of Paris.
But they were drifting mostly south toward the cathedral city of Chartres, 50 miles southwest of Paris.
Paris airport officials had said earlier said they expected the balloonists to land between 7 and 8 p.m. (1 and 2 p.m. EDT) at Le Bourget airport just outside Paris the same spot where Lindbergh landed in his monoplane, the Spirit of St Louis May 21 1927.
The American fliers, setting a new record with every additional mile and minute aloft, radioed the ground they were "jumping out of our skins" with excitement. They vowed to "follow in the footsteps of Lindbergh and fly direct to Paris."
Their wives, following the flight around the clock from London, cheered every development.
"Do you think they'd let them land on top of the Eiffel Tower?" Patty Anderson laughed. "Wouldn't that just be perfect?"
The balloonist cleared the English coastline west of Poole harbor heading into blue skies on a course that traffic controllers said should bring them down 50 miles east of the Cherbourg peninsula.
The balloon drifted high in the sky, small but clearly visible as it started on the last stretch of its voyage.
As dawn colored the sky over the British Isles, the trio of New Mexico balloonists -- Ben Abruzzo, 48, Maxie Anderson, 44, and Larry Newman, 31, all from Albuquerque -- drifted 11,000 feet above Pembrokeshire, Wales, the air traffic control center at Heathrow Airport reported.
The 112-foot-tall, black and silver, helium-filled Double Eagle II was moving at about 25 knots, heading southeast toward France.
At the coast of Wales, British coast guard Frank Jenkins watched the balloon pass over Strumble Head.
"I can see the balloon approximately ... 10,000 feet up in the air," he reported. "It's an orange ball with the sun shining on it at the moment, traveling in an easterly direction. It looks very impressive 4n the early morning sunlight."
An admirer at the British Balloonist Society said Abruzzo, Anderson and Newman were taking part in "the last great adventure in aviation."
"The Atlantic is the big one," he said. "It's the Everest of ballooning."
The Heathrow spokesman said he only had "partial radio contact" with the balloon because the batteries powering its radio were nearly worn out.
"They can hear us, but we can't hear them," he said.
The balloonists made history at 10:02 p.m. Wednesday (5:02 p.m. EDT), when they crossed Ireland's west coast about 15,000 feet above Louisburg in County Mayo and became the first to complete a successful trans-Atlantic balloon flight
"We are on top of the world," Anderson radioed to the Bally Green station. "All three of us are jubilant. We almost jumped out of our skins when we reached the Irish coast. ... We've just brought a big one home."
At least seven men have died in at least 17 previous attempts to cross the Atlantic by a balloon, and Abruzzo and Anderson themselves were forced to ditch near Iceland last year after a 66-hour flight. The most recent attempted crossing, by two Britons, came tantalizingly close to success, but like all others wound up in the water, 110 miles off the coast of France.
Abruzzo, Anderson and Newman have flown more than 2,700 miles since takeoff last Friday in Presque Isle, Maine. The previous balloon record was 2,475 miles, set in October 1976 by Ed Yost of Sioux Falls, S.D., who built the Double Eagle n for Anderson, Newman and Abruzzo.
Ten hours before they reached Ireland they surpassed the endurance record of 107 hours of free flight, also held by Yost.
The American adventurers' triumph electrified the world. In Washington, Rep. Manuel Lujan, R-N.M., interrupted a debate on budget legislation Wednesday night to announce "three of my constituents" had crossed the ocean. Legislators and the audience in the House of Representatives burst into applause.