It wasn't until 1981 that the first attempt was made to try and fly around the world in a hot air balloon. 9 years
later it had become a race and even the World Air Sports Federation had laid down some rules which were:
- To fly at least 25,000 KM
- Crossings all meridians
- Within an area bounded by two caps superimposed on the pole
Before Bertrand and Jones there were a number of others who tried this great challenge but never managed to complete it. Among them were:
Max Anderson, in his 'Jules Verne'
balloon, Larry Newman with 'Earthwind'
, Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand's 'Virgin
, Bertrand Piccard's 'Breitling Orbiter'
, Steve Fossett and his 'Solo Spirit'
and Andy Elson's
'Cable and Wireless'
. It was becoming the most sought after title in the ballooning world, with more and more people trying year
The specialised balloon that was created for the challenge was named the Breitling Orbiter 3
(see picture below). It took off
from Chateaux D'Oex in the Swiss Alps on 1st March 1999.
One of the pilots' first major problems was having to fly far enough south to be able to conform with the restrictions of flying over China
as China had always imposed laws about aviation crafts of any type flying over their country. They successfully managed to fly the right
path and within 11 days they had reached the pacific.
As they approached the Caribbean the pilots started to loose speed rather rapidly. They had only 1 option which was to use a huge amount
of Propane fuel to project them back up into the air, gaining as much altitude as possible. This of course was not their safest option as
they did not want to run out of fuel but the situation left them no choice. At 10,500 meters, the air currents blew them back on course
and with this strengthened wind, their speed increased a great deal.
On 20th March 1999, the Breitling Orbiter 3
crossed the last meridian and landed in Mauritania, North Africa the following day,
becoming the first hot air balloon to circumnavigate the earth. Both pilots had made history, covering a ground breaking distance of
42,810 KM - the greatest hot air balloon challenge in the world had been achieved!