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Bruce Comstock

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I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I’m a great place for you to tell a story and let your users know a little more about you.​


I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. I’m a great place for you to tell a story and let your users know a little more about you.​

About Bruce

Bruce Comstock’s extraordinary accomplishments in ballooning eventually landed him in both the international and the U.S. ballooning halls of fame.


Bruce has set world records, won major championships, guided the national organization of balloonists, revived and edited Ballooning magazine, flown all sorts of balloons, planned and made epic balloon flights, created the first U.S. balloon repair facility, established and built up a major balloon manufacturing company, designed and built the autopilot that made solo ultra long distance balloon flight possible, trained and educated other pilots, and represented the Federal Aviation Administration in the certification of new pilots and of newly manufactured balloons.


Driven by curiosity and blessed with an aptitude for physics and math, Bruce started college studying engineering physics. Despite doing well in this, the curriculum seemed too narrow to him. He transferred to the college of arts and sciences and graduated with a degree in economics.  While in graduate school, his plan to teach economics in college was sidetracked by an unsolicited job offer designing and creating computer software. A chance series of events while he was doing this drew him into the then nascent sport of flying balloons. The rest is history.


Set World Records


Bruce set balloon absolute world records for duration, distance and altitude.  On June 17-18, 1980, he and fellow pilot David Schaffer became the first persons to fly a hot air balloon for more than a full day, setting a new world hot air balloon duration record of 24 hours, 7 minutes, 58 seconds.  On December 3, 1980, he and fellow pilot Jeff VanAlstine bettered the existing world hot air balloon distance record by more than 80 miles in a flight of 494.6 statute miles, from Anderson, Indiana, to just south of Raleigh, North Carolina.  On September 22, 1996, he and fellow pilot Steve Fossett set a new world altitude record for Roziere (temperature controlled gas) balloons of 27,477 feet.


Made Epic Flights


Bruce also conceived and made other epic flights.


These include a dramatic Long Jump flight, in which the rules limit the fuel to 40 gallons – an amount typically carried on a weekend morning recreational flight.  In January 1994 Bruce flew 645 statute miles on less than 37 gallons of fuel, from Atlantic, Iowa to Huntland, Tennessee. This flight more than doubled the distance flown on any previous Long Jump flight. This flight was also the second longest distance flight ever in a hot air balloon of this size.  This Long Jump performance was not exceeded for almost ten years, and then with Bruce’s encouragement, consultation and advice.


In May 1994, Bruce flew a hot air balloon to 30,820 feet above sea level – an altitude that put him above almost three quarters of the earth’s atmosphere.


And in early October 1995, Bruce and Ed Heltshe flew a Roziere balloon from Snowmass, Colorado to the center of Pennsylvania, a distance of 1519 miles – perhaps the longest distance ever purely pleasure flight.


Won Championships


Winning six U.S. national hot air balloon championships, in 1972, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1982, and 1987, Bruce has won more national championships than anyone else ever has. He also finished in the top three places of the U.S. nationals in most of the nationals in which he competed.


A successful veteran of world hot balloon competition, Comstock won the World Hot Air Balloon Championship in June 1981, in Battle Creek, Michigan. He finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th in other world hot air balloon championships. These include 4th in 1973, in Albuquerque, New Mexico; 2nd in 1977, in York, England; 6th in 1979, in Uppsala, Sweden; 3rd in 1989, in Saga, Japan; and 7th in 1991, in St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada.


Contributed to the Ballooning Community


Bruce was president of the Balloon Federation of America (BFA), the national organization of balloonists, and the U.S. delegate to the International Ballooning Commission of the International Aeronautic Federation from 1973 to 1975. From 1971 to 1972 he was editor of Ballooning, the magazine of the BFA.  He served on the BFA board of directors from 1972 to 1975.


From 1971 onward, Bruce instructed many other beginning balloon pilots.


He also served on the international juries for the 2nd World Hot Air Balloon Championship in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1975, the 1st World Gas Balloon Championship in Augsburg, West Germany, in 1976, and the 2002 Motegi, Japan Hot Air Balloon International Championship.


Bruce has served as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated examiner for balloon pilot oral and flight tests and as an FAA designated manufacturing inspection representative for purposes of inspecting newly manufactured balloons for airworthiness certification.  He has received the FAA Service Award for preparing educational material on ballooning and instructing FAA personnel in the basics of safe ballooning.


Inspected, Repaired, and Manufactured Balloons


In 1972, he established the first FAA-certificated balloon maintenance facility in the United States, and is an FAA-certificated balloon repairman. Over a period of years, with his then-wife Tucker, Bruce founded and built Cameron Balloons U S, a leading U.S. balloon manufacturing company.


Helped Make Solo Round-the-World Balloon Flight Possible


Comstock designed and built the electronic balloon autopilot that made extremely long distance solo flights possible.  Two of these are now in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. He shared balloon technical advisor and launch director duties for two of the world's then longest distance balloon flights ever, and for the longest duration solo flight ever.  These include the Solo Spirit non-stop flight halfway around the world from St. Louis, Missouri to eastern India in January 1997, the Pacific Peregrine non-stop flight from Seoul, Korea to Saskatchewan, Canada in February 1995, and the J Renee non-stop flight from Rockford, Illinois to central Myanmar in February/March of 2000. Bruce has also been a technical advisor and launch team member for several other very long distance Roziere flights.


Earned Other Honors


Bruce was the first U.S. balloonist, and the second in the world, to earn the FAI Gold Ballooning Badge with all three diamonds.  This requires having made flights of 9,000 meters (29,528 feet) altitude, 500 kilometers (310 miles) distance, 24 hours duration, and one-meter pilot-declared-goal accuracy.  Bruce did this the hard way – all with hot air balloon flights.


As one of the more successful ever competition balloon pilots, Bruce received the Montgolfier Diploma, the world's highest honor for a balloonist, for his impressive, consistent performance in balloon competition.  This award was bestowed on Bruce by the FAI in 1977.


Flown All Kinds of Balloons


Comstock has a strong, continuing interest in all forms of lighter-than-air flight.  He is a long-time enthusiast of gas ballooning, having made 14 flights, including a flight from Mürren, Switzerland, 140 miles over the Alps (1974). His gas balloon experience includes pure gas flights using hydrogen, helium, and anhydrous ammonia as lifting gases, and Roziere flights using helium. He has piloted both gas and hot air blimps.  In a series of flights beginning in 1975, he developed techniques for safe night flight in hot air balloons.


Bruce has flown several thousand hours in balloons. He is also a certificated airplane pilot and has made more than a thousand foot-launched paraglider flights.


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Bruce now resides in Ashland, Oregon.

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