Record breaking balloonist does it again

Record breaking balloonist does it again

PA 234/09

Distinguished balloonist and University of Nottingham engineer Dr Janet Folkes has broken yet another world record for ballooning.

Dr Folkes, a scientist in the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, landed her gas balloon in Spain last night after breaking the female duration world record of 60 hrs and 12 minutes — a record set in 1995.

Flying with her co-pilot Dr Ann Webb from the University of Manchester the pair were the only all female team taking part in this year’s Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett — a race established in 1905 where crews of two aim to fly their gas balloons as far as possible. After a flight of 1105km the pair may well have made the longest flight ever performed by an all female team.

In a text sent from the skies over Spain at just after 12.30pm BST on Tuesday a jubilant Dr Folkes announced her achievement. It said: “Over Spain. Just set female world record for duration over 60 hours. Still flying — 1000 km.”

A message posted on the official race website said: “We congratulate Janet and Ann on their great achievement. Although figures are unconfirmed and unofficial at this stage it looks very good for a new world record.”

Piloting one of 16 teams to take part in the competition Dr Folkes and her co-pilot took off from a sports ground in Geneva at just after 11pm on Saturday night. They landed at 8.30pm on Tuesday evening in Spain, south of Madrid, after a flight of 70 hours.

The international balloon competition was initiated by adventurer and newspaper tycoon Gordon Bennett in 1906. Often compared with the America’s Cup for sailing this duration race is described as the most prestigious event in aviation and the ultimate challenge for the balloon pilots and equipment.

Janet Folkes has been involved in ballooning for over 20 years, initially flying hot-air balloons and as a competition observer, but more recently flying Roziere and gas balloons. She established 45 World records, many of which still stand today. She has competed in several Gordon Bennett and American Challenge gas balloon races winning the 10th America’s Challenge gas balloon race in 2005 with her American co-pilot Bill Arras. They flew nearly 1,500 miles from New Mexico to Canada in 46 hours and 14 minutes giving her the British General distance and duration records by a large margin.

Her passion for flying does not stop there. She holds a private pilots licence for helicopters, hang gliders and paragliders and is an avid skydiver.

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With a PhD in Metallurgy she put her expertise to the test at Lindstrand Balloons on the Virgin Global Flyer. While working for the UK billionaire, Richard Branson, not only was she involved in the material development, joining and quality control but also in the flight control centre. Her work on airships includes consultancy work for Cargolifter and the publication of a paper on the design structure of high altitude airships for Stratospheric Airships. She is currently researching aerospace applications in Europe’s first state-of-the-art waterjet technologies centre. The £1.1m centre opened at The University of Nottingham in January.

To find out more about Janet —her work and her ballooning — go to the award winning Test Tube website: http://www.test-tube.org.uk/videos/pages_janet_folkes_balloon_maiden_flight.htm


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