LONDON, JULY 4 -- Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand will go into the Guinness Book of Records as the first hot-air balloonists to cross the Atlantic, despite their crash landing at sea, a Guinness official said today.
Whether their Thursday-to-Friday flight meets the more exacting standards of the International Aeronautics Federation is another matter.
"They are the first to cross. It was a phenomenal feat," said Guinness marketing executive Anna Nicolson. She said they also broke three other records that would go into the book: for the largest hot-air balloon, the fastest hot-air balloon and the greatest distance traveled by a hot-air balloon.
"They have undoubtedly flown across the Atlantic in a hot-air balloon and I don't think there's any question about that," agreed Nigel Tasker, secretary of the International Ballooning Committee of the Paris-based International Aeronautics Federation, which decides aviation records.
But Tasker said the federation has no record for crossing the Atlantic; it has only a world distance record that has two rules: No one may leave the craft until final landing, and the balloon must remain under control until final landing.
The 21-story-high Virgin Atlantic Flyer made an out-of-control touchdown in the North Channel of the Irish Sea, between Ireland and Scotland, a mile off Scotland yesterday. The Swedish-born Lindstrand, 38, jumped from the gondola before the crash. Branson, 36, rode the gondola into the sea. Both men were pulled from the water by air-sea rescue teams. They suffered shock but were not seriously injured.
Spokesmen for Branson said the balloon flew 2,789.6 miles to a brief touchdown in Ireland before crashing into the sea, with an average speed of 87.7 mph. They said the flight, begun in Maine, took 31 hours, 38 minutes.
Tasker said Lindstrand must file a claim for the distance record. He said the federation will then decide whether he broke the hot-air balloon world distance record of 913.8 miles.