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EDITIONS
Friday, 26 February, 1999, 04:12 GMT
Arabian nights for balloonists
The path of the balloon so far
The latest bid to circle the globe in a balloon is into its second week, with intrepid British pilots, Andy Elson and Colin Prescot, now floating over Saudi Arabia after crossing the Red Sea.

Great balloon challenge
The 200ft-high balloon flew across the Nile on Wednesday as it passed Sudan, skimmed just south of the Libyan border, and briefly entered Egyptian airspace.

The balloon will continue east on course towards Central India, where its pilots are looking forward to some varying views.

"Last year, we got a birds eye view of the Taj Mahal ... truly amazing. Hopefully, we should get some equally majestic views this time," said Andy Elson.

Last great challenge

The two balloonists are taking advantage of the high-altitude jet stream's strong winds to keep up the speed they need to complete one of the last great challenges of aviation.

Andy Elson
Andy Elson attempts a skywalk over the Sahara
The team are hoping to complete their journey in about three weeks, having left a golf course launch pad in southern Spain a week ago.

If all goes well, a successful finish could come in the North Sea or the Mediterranean in the next two to three weeks.

Close contact

Spokesman Lou de Marco said he anticipated no problems with the countries over which the balloon is passing.

andy and colin
Andy and Colin have spent six days afloat
"While in the air, the balloon pilots will speak to the local air travel control centres at half-hourly intervals to ensure that the national authorities are happy to allow the balloon's passage through their airspace," Mr de Marco said.

The two men have plotted an extra-long route that avoids flying over China as they have not been given permission to fly over the country.

Beijing barred passage across its territory after a previous circumnavigation attempt by entrepreneur Richard Branson strayed into forbidden airspace.

And Mr Elson's last attempt foundered on Chinese restrictions last year, when he was on board the Swiss Breitling Orbiter balloon.

See also:

17 Feb 99 | Great balloon challenge
18 Feb 99 | Balloon race
18 Feb 99 | Balloon race
22 Feb 99 | Balloon race
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