Three Dutch adventurers helped by swift winds today bounced...


AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Three Dutch adventurers helped by swift winds today bounced to a landing in a wheat field in a 15-story-high helium-and-hot-air balloon to set a record for the fastest trans-Atlantic crossing.

As spectators cheered, the trio landed their silver balloon, dubbed 'Dutch Viking,' to end their 2,363-mile crossing and become the first Europeans to accomplish the voyage, which they made in 51 hours, 14 minutes.


A female crew member, the expedition commander's wife, also became the first women to register an Atlantic balloon crossing.

'He was about to cry, he was so happy,' said flight director Kas Beumkes of the commander, Capt. Henk Brink, 42, who was slighlty injured in the bumpy landing 13 miles east of Amsterdam. 'We all are. But he said he'd never do it again.'

Brink and his crew of two, including his wife, Evelien, 30, and Maj. Willem Hageman, a 39-year-old F-16 squadron commander in the Royal Dutch Air Force, set out on the voyage from St. John's, Newfoundland, shortly before midnight Saturday.


They touched down in the wheat field reclaimed from the sea at 2:08 a.m. EDT today after a 51-hour, 14-minute flight.

Brink told ABC's 'Good Morning America,' in an interview from Amsterdan, 'We had a very hard landing, indeed.'

His wife said she was 'very concerned' about the landing.

'We just waited for the big bang and it came,' she said. 'It rolled over a couple of times and that probably was the worst part.' The flight broke the 53-hour record for a trans-Atlantic crossing set two years ago by retired U.S. Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger and marked the first time Europeans made the crossing. Besides Kittinger, another American team made the voyage by balloon in 1978.

Just before touching down in the field near Almere, the balloon sailed proudly past the capital as the city awoke. Local residents flocked to the site immediately after the balloon's landing and soon were joined by several hundred cheering people.

Brink suffered bruises when the jolting landing knocked him off the deck of the gondola and threw him to the ground, Beumkes said.

He was taken by helicopter to a hospital but his injury was not serious and he returned to the landing site after a medical examination, Beumkes said.


'They don't want to split up now,' Beumkes said of the three avaitors.

Of the 'Dutch Viking,' which was not damaged on landing, Beumkes quoted Brink as saying, 'It's a lovely balloon to fly, but a very difficult balloon to land.'

As the flight neared its end, the balloon was caught in a downdraft as it floated over the Dutch coast -- the first threatening situation of the flight, Beumkes said.

When hot air from the propane flame failed to enter the balloon, Brink 'made the decision to throw all the ballast off at the last moment,' he said. 'This caused the craft to ascend again' before the landing was finally made.

It was the Brinks' second attempt at the crossing. They failed in a try last year when they were forced to ditch in the North Sea off Ireland after 33 hours because ice jammed a valve, releasing helium from the balloon.

The balloon, containing 200,000 cubic feet of helium worth an estimated $100,000, had been tracked on its voyage by the European Space Agency. Rescue vessels from the United States, Canada and France had also been put on standby.

The Dutch Viking was also the only civilian aircraft to receive permission to fly over a 50,000-man NATO exercise being staged in the North Atlantic and North Sea.


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