ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – For the first time in 15 years, elite gas balloon pilots will gather in the United States for the oldest, most prestigious race in aviation at Balloon Fiesta. The 2023 Gordon Bennet Long Distance Gas Balloon Championship starts on the first day of fiesta.

Teams will take off from Ballon Fiesta Park on Saturday evening. “Distance is the winner. Not how long you’re in the sky or anything. It’s distance from takeoff spot. Yes, we get competitive. We’re checking. After a day, you’re checking to see who’s left in the sky, where they’re at, where they’re going,” said balloon pilot Barbara Fricke.

This is only the 13th time the event has been hosted in the United States. This is the fifth time it will take place at Balloon Fiesta.