Breitling & Breitling - a heart-warming tale.

Breitling & Breitling - a heart-warming tale.

On 17th March 1999, as the balloon crossed the line of longitude that passes through the USA capital Washington DC, a little girl made her entrance into the world....


The little girl's parents were Sharon and Howard.   Howard had been following the progress of the Breitling Orbiter 3 and they both agreed that Breitling was a really nice name;  and how appropriate that she was born as the balloon passed by on it's unique journey around the world.   What they did not know then were other remarkable coincidences such as the fact that their surname is the same as our sponsor.   Nor that the balloon was going to land in the middle of the Egyptian desert near a tiny village called Mut - literally in the middle of nowhere, but where Howard and Sharon had been on an expedition exactly one year earlier.

Obviously elated by the birth of his daughter and encouraged by our success, Howard sent an email to our control centre - one of more than three thousand received and I regret to say not all were read by Bertrand and myself due to a computer glitch which lost some of them.   But not Howard's.

When we knew that the balloon capsule was to be housed on permanent display in Washington at the National Air and Space Museum, and that Bertrand and I were to give a speech at the handover ceremony, it seemed like a nice touch to invite Howard and Sharon to bring little Breitling to meet us and share in the joy of our mutual achievements.

Each succeeding year, I would send a birthday greeting to Breitling, and Howard was kind enough to send photos of her progressive stages of childhood.

There were many celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the flight, but the most memorable was the party organised by the village of Chateau d'Oex (our launch site) on the evening of 20th March 2009.   Bertrand and I gave a short presentation about our flight and in the questions that followed, I was asked to explain the story of our links with 'Baby Breitling'.   When the guests started cheering and clapping part way through my explanation, I was more than a little confused until my attention was drawn to the screen where a satelite link had been set up and we were linked live with Breitling's own 10th birthday party.   It was a very special surprise part of the evening which was just brilliant.   Two months later I began the 10th anniversary world tour with a new Breitling Orbiter 3 replica hot air balloon, which Breitling had produced.   The idea was to tour the world not simply to celebrate the special anniversary but also to raise funds for our foundation Winds of Hope.
The final stop on the USA sector of the tour was the National Air & Space Museum in Washington DC, which gave an opportunity to see the original capsule once again, to give a public lecture and of course to share some time with little Breitling and her parents.   When sponsor Breitling and I were discussing the plan for the tour in the early stages, I said that I would like to invite little Breitling (if I may call her that to avoid confusion) and her parents once again to the museum, the Breitling boss quite spontaneously suggested that I should present her with a belated 10th birthday present of a Breitling watch.   Such is the generosity of spirit of my sponsor.

Photos are better than a thousand words, but just let me say that we had a great day and evening dinner with Breitling, Howard and Sharon.   Whilst I may be a little biased, I can say in all honesty that at ten years old, Breitling is a delight - articulate, very pretty, well mannered, adventurous and a real credit to her parents.   Even though we are not related, I feel an affinity towards her and for me at least, a bond which I hope will last so that I can be a small part of her life and see her eventually achieve her own dreams.   I think she probably will. 

2015 Update:   we are still in touch and Breitling is now 16 and driving - scary how time flies!
2021 Update:   Breitling graduates with a degree in applied mathematics and environmental engineering.    

See the gallery section for up to date photos of this young woman.