Around The World In 15 Days

The Swiss-British team who became the first to circle the Earth nonstop in a balloon has set an official record, the international aeronautics body FAI confirmed Wednesday.

A study of the technical recording equipment sealed aboard the Breitling Orbiter 3 during the March flight confirms it was the first balloon to go around the world without refueling or stopping, says Mathieu Fouvry, spokesman for the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

The data also shows that pilots Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard had traveled farther, faster, and longer by balloon than anyone.

Although the crew's computers showed they had traveled 29,056 miles, Fouvy said FAI recalculated to take out twists and turns. As a result, Breitling Orbiter 3 will go down in FAI record books as having traveled 25,362 miles.

The previous record was 14,236 miles, set by American millionaire Steve Fossett last August.

Piccard and Jones were aloft 19 days, 21 hours, and 47 minutes. That endurance record eclipses the nearly 18 days (425 hours, 41 minutes) claimed only March 7 by Andy Elson and Colin Prescot of Britain before they ditched in the Pacific Ocean off Japan.

The time Piccard and Jones spent actually circling the globe from the start to finish line over West Africa will provide the speed record to be broken by anyone else: Around the world in 15 days, 10 hours, and 24 minutes.

A fourth record for the highest altitude - 38,507 feet - applies only to the type of balloon they used: A combination version that has a hot-air section and an upper, helium-filled compartment.

Other pilots have gone higher in pure gas balloons. The overall altitude record is 113,740 feet, set by Malcolm D. Ross and Victor A. Prother of the United States in 1961.