1999: The Balloonatics Blast Off

Oct 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones at Heathrow Airport, London, July 25, 2002.

On March 21, 1999, BERTRAND PICCARD of Switzerland, 44, and BRIAN JONES of England, 55, circumnavigated the globe in a $2 million, 9.3-ton hot-air balloon, beating out five other teams vying to circle the earth first. Flying as high as 36,000 feet in the Breitling Orbiter 3, Piccard and Jones navigated 28,431 miles in 19 days, 21 hours, and 55 minutes, touching down on a plateau in the Egyptian desert. "Jones: I agree with those who suggest this was probably the greatest flight ever made within the earth's atmosphere. Consider: It was 216 years between the first manned balloon flight and our round-the-world success. It was 66 years between the flight of the Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 moon landing.

PICCARD: Sometimes I still can't believe we made it. It's nice to hear people compare our achievement with milestones like Hillary's climb of Everest, Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic, or the first polar exploration.

JONES: Explorers are continuing to find new species of flora and fauna in the jungles, and creatures in the sea. There are more mountains out there that have never been climbed than ones that have. I reckon we've only just scratched the surface of exploration in our world."

Interview by Mike McQuaide

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