National Geographic : 1999 Sep
route on maps, discussing flight strategies, making repairs, preparing food in the tiny kitchen area. After nine days in the air, we are ideally positioned to enter southern China. Crossing the border in the middle of the night, we cannot see the high mountains of Yunnan Province, but we feel their effect: Huge waves of wind make the balloon difficult to stabilize. The first words JOFFETEMMANUEL, SIPA of the Chinese air traffic controller leave us no doubt. Their lifeline to the "HB-BRA, remember, it is forbidden to fly north of 26 degrees." surface, a laptop Back at the control center in Geneva the atmosphere is electric as computer allows the they follow our progress. At one point, when we drift as close as 25 pilots to trade mes- miles to the restricted area, the Chinese authorities ask us to prepare sages with mission for an emergency landing. But as if by a miracle the wind brings us control in Geneva. back on track. The next morning when the sky brightens, we see a Piccard adjusts a tiny China that is almost completely covered by a thick layer of clouds. camera for sending During the rest of our 15-hour crossing we keep our eyes fixed on pictures as well. the magic numbers of our instruments: 85 miles an hour, heading Breitling Orbiter 3 Route SI2, 3i I IH iHI 6I 7 I 9 10 March 1, 1999 Balloon launches from Chateau d'Oex, Switzer land, at 8:05 a.m. Greenwich mean time (GMT). March 3 Having drifted southwest from the start, Piccard and Jones finally begin to turn toward the east. March 6 March 7 March 10 After zooming Piccard and Jones Honoring an over Libya at learn that rival agreement with almost 90 mph, British balloonists China to stay the balloonists Andy Elson and south of the 26th must avoid no-fly Colin Prescot have parallel, the team zones over Egypt ditched off Japan. crosses that nation and Yemen. in 15 hours. March 12 Wary of towering nimbus clouds, the pilots continue their six-day jour ney across the Pacific Ocean.