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EDITIONS
Great balloon challenge Monday, 22 March, 1999, 17:22 GMT
Ballooning's 'triumph of a dream'
Jones (left) and Piccard: Triumphant welcome
The record-breaking crew of the Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon have arrived to a heroes' welcome in Switzerland.

Great balloon challenge
"This flight is the triumph of a dream, but also of perseverance and endurance," said Swiss balloonist Bertrand Piccard, shortly after arriving in Geneva with British co-pilot Brian Jones.

Speaking at a news conference in an aircraft hangar, Mr Piccard paid tribute to the "extraordinary" ground crew who had guided the balloon along its course.

Mr Jones described the support team as a "family".

"Without the support of the people on the ground and the genius of our meteorological consultants, we would never have made it."

Mr Jones said that he and Mr Piccard had not been concerned at doubts raised about whether the balloon had enough fuel to complete the final leg of the historic trip.

"For us there was no question - we were not going to stop even if they had told us to," he said.

'Emotions pouring over'

"Bertrand and I have shared every emotion in the last few weeks - and today the emotions are pouring over," he added.

The two balloonists flew by plane to Geneva on Monday morning, after spending the night in Cairo.

The wives of the two men were on the airport tarmac to meet them, along with the support personnel.

Over 1,000 members of the public also arrived to greet the pioneers at the airport.

At a news conference held in an aircraft hangar, officials paid tribute to the two balloonists, comparing them to the great pioneers of aviation.

Desert landing

Mr Piccard, 41, a Swiss psychiatrist, and Mr Jones, 51, a British scientist, first touched down at a remote spot in the Egyptian desert on Sunday - 20 days after taking off from the Swiss Alpine village of Chateau d'Oex.

The first-ever circumnavigation by balloon secured them the $1m (600,000) prize put forward by brewers Anheuser-Busch.

Their route took them eastwards over China, a country which has stymied other circumnavigation attempts by barring them from entering its airspace.

The Breitling Orbiter 3 reached the finishing line for its circumnavigation on Saturday, over Mauritania.

The balloon touched down 500km (300 miles) from Cairo on Sunday - forcing the crew to wait eight hours for the arrival of a rescue crew.

Arriving in Cairo, they were greeted by a traditional Egyptian drum and horn fanfare.

Their first night on terra firma was spent in the city, before they flew to Geneva.


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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Brian Jones thanks "an amazing family"
Video
Paul Adams reports: They are "overwhelmed by the high adventure"
Video
Robert Hall in Geneva: "A day charged with emotion"
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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