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Britons set balloon record

TWO BRITONS aiming to be the first balloon pilots to fly non-stop round the world made chilly progress over the Indian subcontinent yesterday.

Colin Prescot and Andy Elson, who took off from Spain on 17 February, have already broken the endurance record for balloon flight, achieving 233 hours and 55 minutes early on Saturday. The pilots said the balloon was flying at 15,700ft and was expected to reach the east coast of the subcontinent last night. They have been denied permission to use Chinese airspace and hope to catch a high-speed jet stream around China and out over the Pacific, organisers at the project's London mission control said.

Once the balloon is over South-east Asia it is expected to fly at an altitude of 30,000ft in a jet stream that should carry it at speeds of up to 100 mph. The route should take it over Burma to north Thailand, Vietnam, and southern Japan. It is a chilly ride and the pilots have Arctic survival gear to protect them. If all goes well, they could touch down in Europe in two to three weeks.

Another balloon duo, Bertrand Piccard from Switzerland and Brian Jones from Britain, intend to begin a round-the-world attempt today.