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Great balloon challenge Monday, 22 March, 1999, 07:27 GMT
Balloonists: Next stop Geneva
piccard and jones
The pilots became firm friends during the trip
The record-breaking pilots of the Breitling Orbiter 3 are set for another hero's welcome when they arrive in Switzerland on Monday.

Great balloon challenge
Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard and Briton Brian Jones have spent their first night on the ground in three weeks in Cairo.

Their historic adventure finally ended after an eight hour wait for a rescue from the desert heat 300 miles from the Egyptian capital on Sunday.

The pair have already been greeted by a traditional Egyptian drum and horn fanfare in Cairo.

In Switzerland, where the adventure started on 1 March, a special commemorative stamp is being produced to commemorate the achievement.

Virgin tycoon Richard Branson also plans to fly to the Geneva control centre to personally congratulate the two men who have realised one of his own ambitions.

Mr Jones has already described the trip as "the most amazing experience'' and said the two pilots had ended their mission extremely good friends.

The pair are due to give a full account to the world's media in Geneva, but Mr Jones has already given some details.

While the desert of North Africa received praise for its "interesting shapes", China was deemed a washout.

"There was cloud below us," Mr Jones explained.

Guiding hand

Mr Piccard, who was on the verge of tears, said everything was "absolutely wonderful".

"We had the impression that we were guided precisely where we needed to go and when things did not work out we were given a small shove," he added.

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.

It took three attempts to land the balloon
"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.''

Mr Jones said the strong winds had helped although he admitted their craft was ''a bit of a mess".

"The winds tipped it over, and we had to run around the balloon with our knives to make holes to keep from being dragged across the desert."

The grandfather from Wiltshire also sported a bandage after spraining his wrist while punching the holes in the fabric.

Mr Jones' wife Joanna is waiting for him in Geneva.

She said the last three weeks had been ''like a roller coaster'' and added: ''We're all so proud of them - it's a fantastic feat.''

As for what her husband would do next, she said: "I don't know what you do to top this.

"He is not an adventurer, I don't think he will go looking for it, although this may have given him the taste for it.

"But I would assume for a couple of weeks we will take a holiday and catch our breath and see what happens next."

When asked about his next challenge, Mr Jones said: "There is some talk about a potential around-the-world race."

He was quick to rule himself out, but admitted: "In 30 days I might change my mind."


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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
Kevin Connolly: They landed in the remotest of places
Audio
Brian Smith with the latest from the control room in Geneva
Video
David Brown reports from a jubilant mission control in Geneva
Video
David Brown reports from a jubilant mission control in Geneva
Audio
Brian Jones: "I'm going to celebrate with a cup of tea"
Video
Paul Adams reports: They are "overwhelmed by the high adventure"
Audio
Bertrand Piccard: "Grateful to mission control"
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
29 Mar 99 | Great balloon challenge
20 Mar 99 | Great balloon challenge
22 Mar 99 | Great balloon challenge
20 Mar 99 | Great balloon challenge
20 Mar 99 | Great balloon challenge
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