Day after day, you can follow on this page all the preparations
before the Breitling Orbiter's liftoff.
Monday March 1, 1999 03:15 PM (local time)
NON-STOP ROUND THE WORLD BALLOON FLIGHT
BREITLING ORBITER HAS TAKEN OFF
Château d’Oex, Switzerland - The favourable weather conditions have
finally allowed Breitling Orbiter 3 to take off from Château d’Oex, in
the Swiss Alps, on Monday Feb 1st at 8.05 am GMT. Approximately 5'000
thousand spectators gathered to watch the launch.
The pilots Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones will spend the next 16 days
in a pressurized gondola and will overfly the Alps, the French Riviera,
the Baleanic Islands, Morocco, Mauretania, Mali, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia,
India, Burma, South of China (registered in Switzerland, the Breitling
Orbiter has the permission to enter Chinese airspace, unlike the other
English competitors), the Pacific Ocean, California, the USA, the
Canaries to finally land in North Africa.
The Breitling Orbiter 3 crew should reach Mauritania in two and a half
days, where it will catch the border of a jet stream. Acccording to the
meteorologists, the winds should enable them to reach the Pacific Ocean
in 10 days. " It is the first time this year the weather window is ideal
" said Swiss meteorologist Pierre Eckert. Bertrand Piccard, who
celebrates his 41st birthday today, confessed : " We had almost lost
hope of leaving this winter, so this is a great relief "
For the first 48 hours, the 55 meter balloon (the equivalent of the
tower of Pisa), whose envelope could hold the equivalent in volume of 7
Olympic swimming pools, will not fly above 15'000 to 20'000 feet. Its
kevlar and carbon fiber fuselage carries 32 containers of propane, each
filled with 232 liters.
Monday March 1, 1999 07:50 AM (local time)
The Breitling Orbiter 3 has takeoff from Château d'Oex at 09:05 AM (local time)
Follow the race on line.
28 February 1999
The Breitling Orbiter 3 will start in the next few hours from Château d'Oex. The start is expected:
Monday March 1, 1999, Between 7 and 12 noon
27 February 1999 3:30 PM
TAKEOFF SCHEDULED FOR THIS MONDAY MARCH 1, 1999 !
Subject to last minute change in the weather conditions, the Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon, and its crew Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones, should take off this Monday between 7 am and 12 am (local time) from Château d'Oex for its non-stop round the world flight attempt.
Because the weather conditions may change between now and the takeoff date, a final message will be issued Sunday February 28 at 1pm.
17 February 1999
Weather conditions prevailing this week over Morocco prevented the Breitling Orbiter 3 from taking off for its non-stop round the world flight attempt. Although conditions were ideal last Sunday (14 February) for the takeoff from Château d'Oex, they were adverse on the other side of the Mediterranean.
The unstable winds prevailing at different attitudes over this region might easily have forced the balloon off course and into the area of China over which flights are prohibited.
Although the whole technical infrastructure was prepared and the cabin placed on the takeoff site, the project managers preferred to cancel the launch and await more favourable winds.
The weather forecasts suggest that another attempt cannot be envisaged until Saturday, 20 February at the earliest. The window for a possible flight is open until the end of February or even until mid-March.
1st February 1999
Breiling Orbiter 3: China grants conditional authorization
China has confirmed authorization for the Breitling Orbiter 3 to overfly its territory on the following stringent conditions:
The meteorologists are currently making a detailed study to define the weather conditions, which will permit compliance with the Chinese stipulations.
- passage south of the 26th parallel north (south of the Himalayas) or north of the 43rd parallel north
- the crew must announce the air corridor which it intends to follow three days before entering China
- the crew undertakes to maintain permanent contact with the appropriate Chinese authorities from then on and until the balloon leaves Chinese airspace
- the crew undertakes to land before the frontier if the point of entry lies in the prohibited zone and at the request of China if winds divert the Breitling Orbiter 3 towards the prohibited zone
22 January 1999
Breiling Orbiter 3: no launch before Thursday 28th
In spite of favorable meteorological conditions for Monday Jan. 25, Breitling Orbiter 3 will not be launching early next week for its non-stop round-the-world balloon flight attempt. Although informed by the crew of the Monday launch opportunity, the chinese authorities have announced they are unable to lift the temporary interdiction to overfly their territory before at least Sunday, therefore excluding take-off. The unfavorable weather forecast for the following days will delay the possible launch of Breitling Orbiter 3 until Thursday Jan. 28 at the earliest.
18 January 1999
Breiling Orbiter 3: no launch before Saturday 23th
The temporary interdiction to overfly China and the meteorological forecast for this week don't permit the start of the balloon Breitling Orbiter 3 for its attempt for the non-stop round the world flight. Therefore it will in not take place before Saturday, January 23th, 1999
13 January 1999
Breiling Orbiter 3: no launch before monday January 18th
The temporary interdiction to overfly China and the meteorological forecast for the next days don't permit the start of the balloon Breitling Orbiter 3 for its attempt for the non-stop round the world flight. Therefore it will in not take place before monday, January 18th, 1999
8 January 1999
Breiling Orbiter 3: no launch before thursday January 14th
The temporary interdiction to overfly China and the meteorological forecast for the next days doesn't permit the start of the balloon Breitling Orbiter 3 for its attempt for the non-stop round the world flight. Therefore it will in not take place before Thursday, January 14th, 1999
4 January 1999
Breiling Orbiter 3: no launch before sunday January 10th
The temporary interdiction to overfly China and the meteorological forecast for this week doesn't permit the start of the balloon Breitling Orbiter 3 for its attempt for the non-stop round the world flight. Therefore it will in not take place before Sunday, January 10th, 1999
28 December 1998
Breiling Orbiter 3 : no launch before saturday January 2nd
The meteorological conditions forecast for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday would'nt permit the start of the balloon Breitling Orbiter 3 for its attempt for the non-stop round the world flight. Therefore it will in no case take place before Saturday, January 2nd, 1999
24 December 1998
Conduct of Branson prohibits the departure of all other participants
An earlier fax today, addressed to Bertrand Piccard, sent by the Chinese Authorities requests a delay of the planned take off for Breitling Orbiter 3. This decision was said to be the consequences of conduct by the Virgin Global Challenger Crew, not having respected the agreed overfly conditions for China.
The content of this faxmessage is unmistakable: "In order to re-study the granted overfly permission, the Chinese Authorities need more time and therefore we request you to delay the take off of the balloon Breitling Orbiter 3".
Although Bertrand Piccard is very disappointed, he has to accept this new decision.
„ I went personnally to Beijing in order to settle this matter for all participants. Now the Chinese feel that they have been abused, because one of the teams has not respected the agreed overfly conditions“ said Bertrand Piccard today.
This new situation does not permit a launch either for the balloon Breitling Orbiter 3 nor for Andy Elson at the moment. The responsables of the project decided to wait for the new decision coming from China and hope that this will be very soon.
During the coming Christmas Holidays no further comments and interviews will be given to this press communication by either member of the Breitling Orbiter 3 team.
21 December 1998
Breiling Orbiter 3 : no launch before sunday december 27th
The meteorological conditions forecast for Tuesday, Friday and Sathurday would'nt permit the start of the baloon Breitling Orbiter 3 for its attempt for the non-stop round the world flight. Therefore it will in no case take place before Sunday, December 27th.
18 Décember 1998
Breitling Orbiter 3 not due to lift off before next week
The winds currently blowing at medium altitude above Switzerland will prevent Breitling Orbiter 3 lifting off from Château-d'Oex before next Monday. The current weather conditions would not allow the balloon to pick up the jet stream located to the north of Africa.
Moreover, the outcome of the conflict in Iraq is too uncertain to guarantee that it would be safe for Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones to fly over the zone in question. The probability that Breitling Orbiter 3 might indeed fly over Iraq and the surrounding region means those in charge of the mission have opted to await developments before taking a decision.
9 Décember 1998
Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon flight:
Brian Jones replaces Tony Brown
As preparations for the departure of BREITLING ORBITER 3 near completion, differences between pilots Tony Brown and Bertrand Piccard have emerged, particularly in the area of crew resource management—the ability for crews to harness the most effective use of their skills for optimum success.
In view of this, the two pilots and the project organizers, have mutually agreed that Tony Brown will stand down from the project.
Tony has offered to be on hand to offer technical expertise and advice to the project for the duration of the planned flight—an offer the Project's Director, Alan Noble has accepted.
BREITLING has subsequently appointed Brian Jones, the project's reserve pilot to replace Tony Brown.
Brian Jones, 51, is married, father of two and has three grandchildren. From the early stage, Brian was the designated back-up pilot for the project and has thus undergone all the required training, including during the previous BREITLING attempt.
Second-in-command to chief of mission Alan Noble, Brian has accumulated close to 5,000 flight hours, of which 1,200 were clocked up aboard a balloon.
He developed his passion for ballooning back in 1986. Soon thereafter, he acquired his commercial balloon flying license and became an instructor in 1989. Brian is also a certified examiner for balloon flight licenses by the British Civil Aviation Authority.
In 1997-98, he lent a hand organizing the BREITLING ORBITER 2 attempt, assisting Alan Noble at mission control center in Geneva. He was in charge of repatriating the gondola to Bristol after February's landing in Burma.
Until now, Brian was BREITLING ORBITER 3 project manager, responsible for the construction of the gondola and of the flight systems.
Brian is looking forward to fly with Bertrand Piccard and secretly hopes to complete the earth's circle then land the BREITLING ORBITER 3 balloon near the pyramids of Egypt.
Technically ready to go, the BREITLING ORBITER 3 now awaits the most favorable weather window to take off.
18 November 1998
The Breitling Orbiter 3 capsule has arrived on schedule at Château-d'Oex, where it was awaited by the project's technical team. The final assembly work and fine-tuning on the capsule will be done in a closely monitored hangar close to the departure point. This procedure will take around twelve days. This means the BREITLING ORBITER 3 balloon should be ready for lift-off from November 30 onwards, as soon as a favorable weather window is forecast.
12 November 1998
Non-stop round the world balloon flight:
countdown for Breitling Orbiter 3 begins
The countdown to the third attempt at a non-stop round the world balloon flight has begun for the Breitling Orbiter 3 and its crew, Bertrand Piccard from Switzerland and the Englishman, Tony Brown. The capsule and all the equipment have been dispatched to Château-d'Oex from which the balloon will take off as soon as meteorological conditions are ideal. The team led by Alan Noble is confident. The experience of last winter's longest-ever flight yielded precious information. What is more, China has recently given official confirmation of its conditional authorization for the balloon to overfly its territory.
Although the Breitling Orbiter 3 capsule looks like a precise replica of its predecessors, its propulsion system is very different. The fuel consumption management system of the kerosene burners had certain limitations. Propane is now being used to power the burners. However, this fuel carried under pressure has a drawback - the weight of the containers, which will be positioned on both sides of the capsule.
The crew too is new: this time Bertrand Piccard will be accompanied by Tony Brown, a British aeronautical engineer, balloon pilot and Concorde flight engineer.
Permission to overfly China, which had been long awaited last year, has now been guaranteed. Even if it is restricted by several conditions, this authorization does enable the next flight scheduled between the end of November 1998 and late February 1999 to be envisaged with optimism.
11 November 1998
Construction of the BREITLING ORBITER 3 has now been completed. It will leave Bristol by truck on November 16 and is due to arrive in Switzerland on Wednesday, November 18.
The technical team will then take a few days for final assembly and fine-tuning. The BREITLING ORBITER 3 balloon should thus be ready to lift off any time from November 25 onwards, as soon as a favorable weather window is forecast.
Meanwhile, check the Photo Gallery