Why Brian Jones?

Brian Jones (not the late Brian Jones, former member of the Rolling Stones) meets my definition of unlikely record-setter and unlikely hero. THE FOLLOWING QUOTE IS FROM AN ARTICLE THAT APPEARED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES ON 3/21/99, p. A4, AND IS COPYRIGHTED BY THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY. The Breitling 3 mission successfully circumnavigated the globe in a balloon, without stopping, in March 1999. The mission was the first one to achieve this.

"Brian Jones, the co-pilot on the Breitling mission, would have remained a quiet but crucial part of his team's ballooning effort if it had not been for a series of lucky breaks.

"Jones, who is to turn 52 next week, is actually the team's third co-pilot. The first, Wim Verstraeten of Belgium, the longtime flying partner of Bertrand Piccard, the pilot, pulled out of the effort after a failed mission by Breitling 2 a year ago. Then the second, Anthony Brown of Britain, quit last November over differences in style and personality with Piccard. That left the back-up man, Jones, Breitling's project manager, who had taken the necessary flight training and was poised to step into place.

"Unlike Britain's high-profile balloonist, Richard Branson, the billionaire businessman whose own around-the-world effort most recently was thwarted when he had to land in the sea last Christmas, Jones is unknown here except in ballooning circles. He is no swashbuckler.

"'Brian Jones seems the most unlikely person to become the most famous balloonist in England,' John Christopher, the editor of Aerostat, a magazine for professional balloonists, told the Press Association here. "He is an ordinary, very likable guy who is not a great egotist or publicist."

"'He is very easygoing, with no spectacular achievements in his past,' Christopher added, calling Jones 'a very experienced and all-around balloonist who has suddenly found himself in this extraordinary position.'

"Born in Bristol in 1947, Jones learned to fly at 16, dropping out of school a year later to join the Royal Air Force. After 13 years of service, he joined a catering business and, in the 1980s, set about becoming a professional balloonist.

"After earning his commercial balloon flying license, Jones became a ballooning instructor in 1989 and was certified as an examiner for balloon flight licenses by the British Civil Aviation Authority.

"He helped organize Breitling's most recent around-the-world attempts, in 1997 and 1998. Until he moved from his position as back-up pilot to pilot, he was an on-the-ground man, responsible as the team's project manager for the construction of both the balloon's gondola and its flight systems.

"His wife of nearly nine years, Joanna, 45, is also a balloonist and has been in Breitling's flight control center at Geneva Airport since the balloon was launched on March 1.

"Jones, who lives in the town of Erlestoke, Wiltshire, has two children and three grandchildren."