THE GREAT NON-STOP AROUND THE WORLD BALLOON RACE
Chapter Five - July 10, 1998
Breaking news as of July 10th, 1998, is that two new teams have announced plans to compete in the GREAT NON-STOP AROUND THE WORLD BALLOON RACE.
In a balloon titled The Spirit Of Peace, two US citizens, Jacques Soukup who lives in England and Mark Sullivan of Albuquerque, N. M. will be joined by Crispin Williams of England to form a 3 man International team. All are outstanding balloonists with many awards and Firsts in their years of experience. They plan a liftoff from New Mexico as the season opens this winter, weather permitting. Partners in the venture are the Soukup & Thomas International Balloon & Airship Museum of Mitchell, South Dakota and the Fantasy of Flight Museum near Orlando, Florida. Their mission control center will be located at the Museum in Florida where an outstanding support team will be based. Lou Billones will be their Chief Meteorologist at a special weather facility in Omaha, Nebraska. He and his team of advanced degreed meteorologists have worked together on other non-stop around the world attempts where new world's records were set.
The principal sponsor of the flight has been announced as the Reverend Marta Weeks of the United States Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Southeast Florida. She is a well known philanthropist and educator known as "Aunt Father Marta" who was one of the first female priests ordained in her church in the USA. She is also the Aunt of Jacques Soukup's partner, Kirk S. Thomas, and the mother of Kermit Weeks, founder of the Fantasy of Flight Museum, making this a true family affair. Their announced goals are to promote a genuine concern for human welfare and equality amongst diverse cultures, religions, and political systems throughout and near the balloon's International route and the entire world.
They will use a Rozier type balloon made by Cameron Balloons, Ltd. In the UK. It will be 180' tall and the envelope will hold 550,000 cubic feet of helium when fully expanded. The hot air cone displaces 22,850 cubic feet and it will have a "top tent" volume of 22.000 additional cubic feet. It is designed to operate most efficiently at altitudes between 24,000 and 43,000 feet. Their capsule will be pressurized and insulated against the high altitude cold. Their hot air burners will be fired by propane carried outside the capsule in titanium tanks.
Their website, listed below, is interesting like the others and brings you great detail about the crew, mission, equipment, and ballooning history. It's easy to navigate but limited in scope. There are no links to other interesting ballooning information other than that generated on the site.
This announcement and another today (July 10, 1998) brings the count to six teams committed and two still mulling it over, for a total of eight possible entrants so far this coming season. All of this adds to the excitement of this great adventure!
The Global Conqueror balloon from South Africa announced an entry into the race with a crew of three experienced balloonists they claim are the best in the world. Assembled by Advocate (Lawyer) and veteran pilot Gerrit Coetzee, trustee of the Global Conqueror Trust, they are, in addition to Coetzee, Terry Adams and Kevin Roberson. Bill Harrop has been named as Reserve Pilot. They have vast experience and many ballooning championships in their portfolios. They are planning a Southern Hemisphere route in a Rozier type balloon. They lean heavily on the expertise of Cameron Balloons, Ltd. of the UK who manufactured their ship and the majority of the balloons used in the quest, who will advise them on many aspects of the flight.
Their route will take them from a launch point in either Alexander Bay or Beaufort-West in the former Cape Province near the Southwest coast of the nation. It will depend on advice from their meteorological team as to the most favorable place to lift off at a particular time. The four man team of forecasters is from the South African Weather Service and near the top of the world's leading meteorologists
The biggest problem at the moment is their lack of funding. Their need for a sponsor is reflected in their website which looks nice and is easy to navigate but reads more like a sales pitch to potential sponsors than a serious information source. As if it was written to impress rather than to inform. There are solid facts in it, however. Like the Breitling Orbiter website theirs was obviously written by someone who has English as a second language. It requires a little tolerance, forbearance, and an occasional translation on the part of the reader.
They obviously know what they are doing and will be extremely competitive when enough funding is achieved. Until then we'll just have to wait and see. I will leave it up to you to go to their website to get all the technical facts about their balloon and other equipment.
We were surprised by all the news and expected no further activity until just before Steve Fossett's scheduled liftoff from Argentina next month. Boy, were we wrong. What will happen next?
The teams websites are all listed in the Index. Just click on an address to go take a look. All are interesting and informative. Bookmark ARMCHAIR so you can check back with a single click to keep in touch with new events in this great adventure.