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Virgin Global Challenger Lands Safely

January 8, 1997 10am EST
Virgin Global Challenger Press Release

balloon being filledRichard Branson, Per Lindstrand and Alex Ritchie landed safely at 7:25am GMT this morning. Due to technical failures they had to abort their attempt to circumnavigate the globe by balloon. The Virgin Global Challenger landed near the Bechar Military Base in a desert setting in North West Algeria. The landing was controlled and all three crew members are unhurt and well.

In a phone interview from the landing site, Richard Branson commented: "After a night of relatively smooth flying, we experienced a sudden drop, we were in danger of coming down too quickly in the Saharan Atlas mountain range. Alex Alex Ritchie Ritchie showed unbelievable bravery by climbing onto the roof to release ballast to slow our descent. He was on top of the capsule for 5 minutes held on only by tank straps. Once the ballast was released we were able to begin a controlled descent. I truly believe that Alex saved our lives."

The capsule has been secured and is being attended by members of the Virgin support team. The capsule's transportation back to Morocco will be a major task.

Their morning progressed as follows:
(all times are GMT)

1:00am 	Balloon experiences technical difficulties
        and begins to descend rapidly.

7:25am	The balloon lands safely with the pilots

9:25am	The Algerian army arrived at the landing
        site to secure the area.

10:10am	Two helicopters arrived on base, one carrying
        medics and the other carrying further troops
        to the capsule.

10:30am	The helicopters began transporting the
        pilots to a secure military base in 
        Algiers. The military base is approximately
        70km from the landing site.

11:15am	The chase plane left Algiers to join
        the pilots at the military base and
        escort them back to Algiers.
It is rumored that the British Ambassador in Algiers will meet the pilots at the base and introduce them to the Algerian Minister of Transport. The Ambassador had invited the pilots to drinks and dinner this evening but their attendance has not been confirmed as yet.

The Algerian government has been very helpful with obtaining passage from the landing site.

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