Personal profile

Brian George Jones OBE, DSc, MA


I learned to fly a glider at the age of sixteen which began a lifetime's passion for flight.  Following full time education, I served 13 years in the Royal Air Force as aircrew on the Hercules aircraft and Puma helicopter, opting for a career change in 1977 to sales and training in the pharmaceutical industry.

I formed my own service sector company in 1981, and became active in various trade associations, being elected President of the town's Chamber of Commerce in 1985.  I continued gliding as a hobby; and as an instructor, taught students to fly from first flight through to solo qualification.

I discovered a new dimension to my passion in 1986 when I was introduced to ballooning.  I was immediately captivated with this form of flight and went on to obtain a commercial pilot's licence, then instructor rating in 1989.  Wishing to fly full time, I decided to sell my company and set up as a consultant specialising in assisting new commercial ballooning enterprises to become established.  I was Chief Pilot for four such companies.  In 1993 I was appointed by the Civil Aviation Authority as a pilot examiner and, a year later, as the Training Officer and Chief Flying Instrctor for the British Balloon and Airship Club responsible for the training and appointment of all British balloon instructors.

I have logged in excess of 5,000 flying hours.  My favourite type of flying is Alpine ballooning and I have flown extensively in Switzerland, Austria and Italy.  I produced specialist pilot training courses for high altitude and Alpine flying in 1995, and have trained and examined pilots in many countries throughout the world.

In 1997 I was invited to assist in the organisation of the Breitling Orbiter 2 around the world project and to advise on the pilot's survival training.  I was one of two operations directors in the Communications and Control Centre at Geneva airport whilst the Orbiter 2 was in flight.

In February 1998 I was asked to project manage the design, production and integration of a new balloon capsule with redesigned life-support and flight systems for the Breitling Orbiter 3.  I was also responsible for the pilot technical and flight training for these new systems.  I was then selected as operating pilot in November 1998.

I landed the Breitling Orbiter 3 in Egypt on 21st March 1999, with Bertrand Piccard, having flown for almost 20 days and achieved the first non-stop flight around the world by balloon.  During this flight seven world records were set for duration, distance, altitude and speed.  The flight remains the longest in terms of both duration and distance flown in the history of aviation.

Following our flight, Bertrand and I co-authored our story in a book entitled The Greatest Adventure which became an International Best Seller.

We also founded the Winds of Hope charitable foundation using the million dollar prize for our achievement, to support and raise awareness of the plight of the world's children suffering in unreported or forgotten circumstances.

In May 2000 I served as Flight Director & team leader as part of the first successful balloon flight across the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole, piloted by British Polar explorer David Hempleman-Adams.

In September 2003 I was the Mission Control Director for the QinetiQ1 project: an attempt to fly a balloon to 132,000 ft in order to gain the NASA held absolute altitude record set during the Mercury space missions.

Between 2003 and 2010 I was a director of the Solar Impulse project - a successful attempt to fly an aeroplance around the world using only the energy from the sun.   Zero fuel and zero emissions.

From 2014 to 2018 I was a director of Astigan - a company set up to design, build and operate a high altitude, unmanned solar powered aircraft with a flight duration of more than 3 months.

Since 2012 I have developed a project to facilitate the flight training for disabled students with a desire to become balloon pilots.   I am Honorary President of the Swiss disabled flying charity Handiflight, and an ambassador for the British disabled flying charity Aerobility.

I am privileged to have been granted the following Honours and Awards:

Officer of the Order of the British Empire (UK)

The Olympic Order (International)

Gold Medal of Sport (France)

The Explorer's Club Lowell Thomas medal (USA)

The Federation Aeronautique Internationale Gold Air Medal (International)

Gold Medal of the Club Aeronautique de France (France)

The Hubbard Medal of the National Geographic Society (USA)

The Air League Founders Medal (UK)

The Master's Medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators (UK)

The Walpole Committee Medal of Excellence (UK)

General Service Medal (Royal Air Force) (UK)

The George E. Haddaway Medal for Achievement in Aviation (USA)

The Britannia Trophy of The Royal Aero Club (UK)

The Harman International Trophy of the National Aeronautic Association (USA)

The Federation Aeronautique Internationale Prix Henry de Lavaulx (International)

The French Academy of Sport Prix Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe (France)

The Wilhemina Reichard Prize (Germany)

The American Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award (USA)

The Pole Star of the Jules Verne Adventure Association (International)

The Cabot Award from the Aero Club of New England (USA)

The Order of Magellan from the Circumnavigators Club (USA)

British Balloon and Airship Club Charles Green Salver (UK)

British Balloon and Airship Club Lipton Trophy (UK)

British Balloon and Airship Club Montgolfier Award

Recognition Salver of the Balloon Club of America (USA)

The Victor Award (Academy Awards of Sports) (USA)

The Hillard Trophy from the Aviation Heritage Association (USA)

Doctor of Science degree honoris causa from Cranfield University (UK)

Doctor of Science degree honoris causa from Southampton University (UK)

Master of Arts degree honoris causa from the University of Bath (UK)

Emeritus Member of the French National Air and Space Academy (France)