TORONTO -- A British couple could become the first woman and blind man to fly a hot air balloon across the Atlantic this summer.

If the voyage goes as planned, balloonists Deborah Day and Mike Scholes will lift off from Sussex, N.B., sometime between mid-June and early August and land in central Europe six days later.

At that speed, they’d break the current world record, which is just over six days to complete the transatlantic journey.

They’d also accomplish a couple other milestones: Scholes, who is registered blind, would be the first visually impaired crew member of a hot air balloon to make the trip. Day would be the first woman to captain a balloon across the Atlantic.

Scholes lost his sight in 2007 and was forced to pull back from a ballooning business he started. But Day soon after developed a passion for ballooning herself. In 2014, she flew more than 340 kilometres in about six hours to win a long-distance contest, called the Great British Long Jump. After that, the couple thought “What can we do now?”

“It was really wanting to do something that hadn’t been done before,” Day, 56, told Your Morning about the transatlantic mission.

“It’s something different. It’s a challenge,” echoed Scholes, 66. “We like long distance and we like challenging flights.”

The 2020 journey will be documented on their website and on social media with the hashtag “BalloonThePond.” It’s a trip that has been six years in the making. They’ve read up on transatlantic flying, worked on their fitness, and completed “sea survival” training just in case they end up in the water. They’ll take turns sleeping in their 27-metre Roziere balloon, which is insulated, and come prepared with lots of water and freeze-dried food known as “expedition food.”

“We’re camping in the sky basically,” said Day.

They’ll have their passports packed, but they don’t know where they’ll end up. Depending on wind conditions, the balloon could land along the North African coast or somewhere north of Scandinavia. But they have their preferences.

“Debbie quite likes the idea of Switzerland,” said Scholes. “Near Gruyeres where they make the cheese.”


Preparing for a flight over the English Channel

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