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