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Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 04:11 GMT

Balloonists are go for Mexico

British balloonist Brian Jones and his Swiss co-pilot Bertrand Piccard are almost in sight of land as a jet-stream propels their balloon over the Pacific and towards Mexico.

Great balloon challenge
The Breitling Orbiter 3's support team said the round-the-world attempt was on course to be over Guadalajara, in western Mexico, by Wednesday.

The balloon has been over the Pacific, sometimes flying at slower than 30 mph, since it left China last Wednesday.

Support team member Luc Trullemans said: "Psychologically, the sight of the Mexican coast will be very important to the pilots, having spent the last six days with nothing but water around them."

[ image: Piccard and Jones: Six days out of sight of land]
Piccard and Jones: Six days out of sight of land
Mr Jones, 51, from Erlestoke, Wiltshire, and Mr Piccard, 41, who launched from Switzerland on 1 March, hope to complete their round-the-world flight by landing in North Africa by Saturday or Sunday, a journey of around 26,000 miles.

On Monday the pair made their final "skywalk", spending two hours outside the capsule making technical adjustments before entering the jet-stream.

The craft is currently at an altitude between 30,000 and 36,000 feet at 70 knots.

On Sunday the Breitling broke the official distance record for a manned non-stop balloon flight, passing the 14,235-mile mark set last year by US balloonist Steve Fossett.

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