Who was the first person to make a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a gas balloon?
Joseph William Kittinger II (born July 27, 1928) is a retired colonel in the United States Air Force and a USAF Command Pilot. His initial operational assignment was in fighter aircraft, then he participated in Project Manhigh and Project Excelsior high altitude balloon flight projects from 1956 to 1960, setting a world record for the highest skydive from a height greater than 19 miles (31 km). He was also the first man to make a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a gas balloon, and the first man to fully witness the curvature of the earth.
Kittinger served as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, and he achieved an aerial kill of a North Vietnamese MiG-21 jet fighter and was later shot down himself, spending 11 months as a prisoner of war in a North Vietnamese prison. He participated in the Red Bull Stratos project as capsule communicator in 2012 at age 84, directing Felix Baumgartner on his record-breaking 24-mile (39 km) freefall from Earth's stratosphere.
Kittinger was interested in ballooning and set a gas balloon world distance record for the AA-06 size class (since broken) of 3,221.23 km in 1983. He then completed the first solo balloon crossing of the Atlantic in the 106,000 cubic foot (3,000 m³) Balloon of Peace, from September 14 to September 18, 1984, organized by the Canadian promoter Gaetan Croteau. As an official FAI world aerospace record, it is the longest gas balloon distance flight ever recorded in the AA-10 size category (5,703.03 km).