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Millionaire balloonist expects landfall soon

Daily Staff Report

6/26/02

Editor’s Note: This is an update assembled from wire reports and a Web site, http://www.spiritoffreedom.com, dedicated to the progress of part-time Beaver Creek resident Steve Fossett and his sixth try to become the first solo balloonist to circle the globe. In five earlier solo attempts, Fossett has plummeted into the Coral Sea and, last summer, was forced to ditch the balloon on a Brazilian cattle ranch after 12 days in flight, making it the longest-ever solo balloon flight. Fossett holds world records in ballooning, as well as sailing and flying airplanes.



ST. LOUIS – The daunting peaks of the Andes mountains lay ahead for adventurer Steve Fossett on Tuesday, a week into his quest to become the first solo balloonist to circle the globe.

After some quick and badly needed shuteye, the part-time Beaver Creek resident was breathing easy above the south Pacific at 16,500 feet – low enough where an oxygen mask was not needed – as his Bud Light Spirit of Freedom balloon was closing in on the coast of Chile.



Fossett hoped for a smooth ride over Brazil and the Andes, the craggy wall of rock that last year bounced the balloon with swirling winds and downdrafts around some peaks rising as high as 23,000 feet.

Media are awaiting more pictures of the Bud Light Spirit of Freedom balloon and Fossett as he approaches South America, with the crossing of the Chilean coast currently scheduled for this morning

Fossett faces the biggest geographic land feature of his circumnavigation as the balloon has to cross over the Andes Mountains. On the current southern track, Fossett will cross peaks as high as 8,000 feet, whereas further north near Santiago, the snow capped ranges present a much higher obstacle.



There has been a virtual media-images blackout of Bud Light Spirit of Freedom since Fossett left Australia and was intercepted last week over the Tasman Sea by his Cessna Citation X chase plane, which flew out of Sydney.

Fossett hopes this time to complete the circuit in 15 days.

On the Net: http://www.spiritoffreedom.com.


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