Don Cameron is a vastly experienced pilot and has received the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals of the British Royal Aero Club for his ballooning achievements. It was at The White House in the United States of America that the Vice President awarded him the Harmon Trophy, which has had such auspicious holders as Charles Lindburgh and Neil Armstrong.
Among his many ballooning achievements, Don Cameron was the first to cross the Alps and the Sahara by hot-air balloon. In 1990, he made the first balloon flight between the UK and what was then the USSR. In 1978, his attempt to make the premier Atlantic crossing by balloon ended in sight if the French coast, when bad weather forced his craft down. Undaunted, however, he achieved that goal in 1992, when he flew a balloon of his own design from Bangor, Maine, to Portugal and won second place in the first-ever transatlantic balloon race.
Cameron Balloon over BristolCameron Balloons, Bristol, built the world’s first hot-air airship, a dirigible shaped hot-air balloon that can be manoeuvred by using a small engine and fabric rudder. These activities were extended to include the world’s smallest helium filled craft, being a one-man machine that can be kept in an ordinary aircraft hanger when not in use. As well as all these conventional balloons, Don Cameron’s company has developed the technology to produce its world famous special shapes. Such shapes as a Fantasia Castle for Disney; a bust of Beethoven; an Orient Express train; trucks; shoes; telephone; motorcycle; cars; fruit; bottles; cans; golf balls and numerous animals, such as a dinosaur, a dog, a parrot, bears, rabbits, Mickey Mouse, and, of course Donald Duck. The design of early special shapes were all completed by Don Cameron himself using a drawing board and slide-rule technique. He later wrote special-purpose software for the design of special shape balloons which made possible the present wide range of achievable shapes. All of these craft are fully certified as aircraft, yet they are entirely built of fabric. There are no solid devices to help them keep their shape.
Don Cameron has advanced the science, technology and the art of lighter-than-air flight to its highest level over a period in excess of 25 years. the epitome of his achievement is most persuasively illustrated by the fact that it was a Don Cameron R-650 Roziere type, combination helium and hot-air balloon, that was used by the Breitling Orbiter team to complete the first-ever circumnavigation of the globe by hot-air balloon. This is notable also for the fact that it holds the record for the longest un-refuelled flight of any aircraft in aviation history both in terms of distance (40,813 km) and duration (19 days, 21 hours and 47 minutes). There were also smaller versions of that Cameron- Roziere balloon that were used in the 1992 Chrysler Atlantic Race and have been used for a variety of projects, including the first coast to coast flight across Australia and the first solo crossing of the Pacific Ocean.
Don Cameron, in July ‘00, received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Engineering from Glasgow University.
This is adapted from the address by Professor R. A. McD Galbraith on that occasion.