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EDITIONS
Great balloon challenge Sunday, 21 March, 1999, 16:17 GMT
Stranded balloonists rescued
The party begins in the Breitling control centre in Geneva
The party begins in the Breitling control centre in Geneva
The crew of the Breitling Orbiter 3, the first balloon to fly non-stop around the world, has been picked up several hours after landing in the Egyptian desert.

An Egyptian army helicopter rescued stranded pilots Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones from a remote area some 300 miles south-west of Cairo.

Great balloon challenge
Cheers broke out in the mission control in Geneva shortly after the Anglo-Swiss team touched down at 0603 GMT.

"The eagle has landed. All is okay," the pilots said in a message to flight control in Geneva.

Mr Piccard, 41, a Swiss psychiatrist, and Mr Jones, 51, a British scientist, made a perfect landing, according to flight director Alan Noble who watched the descent from a light aircraft.

"Piccard jumped off the gondola and he waved to us from the desert as we came past,'' he said.

"They made three attempts. We gave them five out of 10 for the first attempt, seven out of 10 for the second and 10 out of 10 for the third.''

Don Cameron, whose company in Bristol, England, manufactured the history-making balloon, added: "The landing was done very calmly, done by the books.

"They touched down very gently. They were very close to empty (on fuel). They had to land today. There was no question of going another night. It was a very tight window."

'We're with the angels'

It will take at least two hours to deflate the balloon, which could hold the equivalent in volume of seven Olympic-size pools.

Mr Piccard thanked "the invisible hand" which guided the team past storms in what was his third quest to circumnavigate the globe.

"We are very lucky and privileged to have succeeded in the first around-the-world trip," he added. "We are having great difficulty realising our dreams have come true ... We are with the angels."

On breaking the record, Mr Jones said that he planned to "have a cup of tea like a true Englishman".

After hearing of the successful landing, Mr Jones' wife Joanna said: ''We're all so proud of them - it's a fantastic feat.''

She described the last three weeks as ''like a rollercoaster'' - one of the worst times being when they lost contact with the balloon over the Pacific.

Pyramid landing canceled

The giant silver balloon, as tall as a 20-storey building, made aviation history when it completed its circumnavigation of the globe by crossing the longitude of 9.27 degrees west over Mauritania at 0954 GMT on Saturday.

The pilots decided to carry on in a bid to fulfil Mr Jones' dream of landing beside the Egyptian pyramids, but weather conditions made it impossible.

As soon as their landing was announced, bells rang out in Chateau d'Oex in the Swiss Alps, from where the balloon set off on 1 March.

Balloon crew
Celebration time for an exhausted crew
In southern Egypt, security officials were advising people in the region who may have seen the balloon descending that there was nothing to fear from it.

The Federation Aeronautique Internationale, which regulates the event, said the balloonists had broken three records - for distance, duration and time around the world.

Messages of congratulation have flooded in, including ones from the Queen, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Virgin tycoon Richard Branson, who made four unsuccessful attempts at the record.

"It is magnificent achievement and two delightful people have achieved it,'' Mr Branson said. "We look forward to going to Switzerland to celebrate it with them."


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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Brian Smith, from the Breitling Orbiter control room: "They have resorted to eating a mixture of soup and muesli"
Video
David Brown reports from a jubilant mission control in Geneva
Audio
Brian Smith with the latest from the control room in Geneva
Video
David Brown reports from a jubilant mission control in Geneva
Video
BBC Correspondent David Allison reports on the team poised to seize the prize
Audio
Brian Jones: "I'm going to celebrate with a cup of tea"
Video
The BBC's George Eykyn: "The Breitling is about to make aviation history"
Audio
Bertrand Piccard: "Grateful to mission control"
Video
Kevin Connolly in Geneva: "The extraordinary adventure is going to end in triumph"
Audio
Claire Doole reports from mission control in Geneva
Audio
Richard Branson congratulates the Breitling team
Audio
Flight Director Alan Noble: Nobody can take it away from us
Audio
Joanna Jones: ''I don't know what you do to top this.''
See also:

20 Mar 99 | Great balloon challenge
20 Mar 99 | Great balloon challenge
20 Mar 99 | Great balloon challenge
22 Mar 99 | Great balloon challenge
20 Mar 99 | Great balloon challenge
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