On 1st March 1999 Bertrand Piccard set off in Breitling Orbiter 3 to become the first balloon to circumnavigate the globe non-stop. Accompanied by his co-pilot Brian Jones, Piccard took off from the Swiss village of Chateau d’Oex and landed 19 days, 21 hours and 55 minutes later in the Egyptian desert.
The balloon was a Rozier, combining elements of both the gas and hot air balloons; a helium cell contained within a hot-air envelope. The gondola was designed specifically for the flight; constructed of kevlar and carbon fibre, it remained pressurised at the equivalent of atmospheric pressure at 3000m (10,000ft) altitude. During the flight, Piccard and Jones reached a top speed of 161kt, a maximum altitude of 11,373m (37,313ft) and covered a total distance of 45,755km (28,431 miles).
The flight created no less than four FAI world records: Shortest time around the world, altitude, distance and duration. Following the successful completion of the journey, Piccard and Jones donated the gondola to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, where it can be seen today.
In 2008 Bertrand Piccard was appointed FAI Honorary Patron. He is also the instigator of the 'Solar Impulse' project to fly a solar-powered aircraft around the world. Click here to read more about Solar Impulse.