Breitling Orbiter Three: Bristol pilot reflects on 25th anniversary

A pilot from the first-ever non-stop circumnavigation of the globe by hot air balloon has reflected on the 25th anniversary of the flight.

The Breitling Orbiter Three was built by Cameron Balloons in Bedminster, Bristol, and co-piloted by Brian Jones OBE and Bertrand Piccard.

They flew non-stop between 1 and 20 March 1999, from the Swiss Alps to the Egyptian desert.

Mr Jones said the pair were "elated" to complete the record-breaking journey.

The 25,361-mile (40,814km) journey took the Bristolian and Swiss balloonists from Chateau-d'Oex in Switzerland across the Mediterranean Sea and over Mauritania in Africa.

Mr Jones, who now lives in Taunton, said: "People don't believe us, but it's absolutely true that the whole 20 days of that flight, not a single cross word passed between us."

Even after 25 years, their world record of travelling on the furthest and longest non-stop unfuelled flight in any form of aircraft remains intact.

After the pair landed in the desert, they were transported to Cairo, Egypt, where they were greeted with "absolute pandemonium", according to Mr Jones.

They were met by the British and Swiss ambassadors who congratulated them for their achievement.

Mr Jones said it was "a real surreal moment".

Alan Noble, who lives in Stockwood, worked as a project director during the design and build of the balloon.

When the pilots began their journey, he served as a flight director.

"I have many happy memories of its record breaking journey around the world," he said.

To commemorate the experience, Mr Noble has a clock from the control centre and a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II's visit to the Cameron Balloons site, where she met the team to congratulate them.

He said both items remind him of the "fantastic adventure" everyday.

A celebration to mark the 25th anniversary of the flight will be held in Geneva on 11 April.


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