Branson Celebrates Official Recognition of Balloon Flight
LONDON (AP) _ Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand toasted each other over the telephone Saturday after hearing that their trans-Atlantic crossing has been officially recognized as the longest flight ever by a hot-air balloon.
Branson said the Paris-based International Aeronautics Federation, which decides aviation records, determined the 34-hour flight broke the world distance record.
″It was lovely news. I am delighted,″ the 36-year-old entertainment and aviation tycoon said as he relaxed at a hotel in Devon.
″It was all worth it. We were attempting something for the first time and were acting like test pilots. We did not know how the balloon was going to react.″
Branson said he got word of the record at about midnight.
The Virgin Atlantic Flyer, their 21-story-balloon, splashed out of control into the sea a mile off Scotland on July 3 after briefly touching down in a field in Limavady, Northern Ireland. Both Lindstrand and Branson were plucked from the water.
The federation credited the ballonists with a distance record of 2,280 miles from Maine to the point of touchdown in Northern Ireland, breaking the record of 913.8 miles set in 1985 by Canadian Harold Warner.
Branson and Lindstrand will also go into the Guinness Book of Records with four hot-air balloon records: the first Atlantic crossing, the longest distance, the fastest balloon and the largest balloon. The craft reached speeds of 140 mph.
There was a question as to whether the balloonists would get the official record because of rules stating that no one may leave the craft until the final landing and that the balloon must remain under control until the final landing.
Rival British balloonists Don Cameron and Jim Howard, who planned their own trans-Atlantic crossing, said the circumstances might keep Lindstrand and Branson from claiming the record.
Cameron and Howard planned to take off in a hot-air balloon from St. John’s, Newfoundland on July 4, but an accident with their propane fuel tanks delayed the flight.
Branson said he broke open a bottle of champagne and called Swedish-born Lindstrand, 38, when he heard they were given the record. Lindstrand lives in Shrewsbury, 160 miles northwest of London.
″I woke him up and got him out of bed. We toasted each other down the phone. This has for him been a lifelong ambition come true,″ Branson said.
With a laugh he added, ″Now, we don’t have to try again.″