Millionaire adventurer reports smooth sailing in round-the-world balloon bid

Friday June 21, 2002

ST. LOUIS — Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett reported smooth sailing early Thursday — and said he even got some sleep — as he continued his sixth try to become the first solo balloonist to circle the globe. 

“This is all looking good, I’m even able to sleep, which I’ve never been able to do on the first night of a flight,” Fossett said. 

As of 7 a.m. EDT, Fossett and his Bud Light Spirit of Freedom balloon were drifting north of Canberra, Australia, cruising at about 50 mph at an altitude of 21,000 feet. He had flown more than 1,800 miles since his Wednesday launch in western Australia. 

Fossett’s team at mission control in St. Louis expected the balloon to pass about 70 nautical miles south of Sydney, Australia, within a few hours. 

Fossett’s backers at Washington University — his alma mater — say the 58-year-old investment tycoon from Chicago could complete the mission in 15 days total. 

Fossett holds world records in ballooning, sailing and flying airplanes. He also swam the English Channel in 1985, placed 47th in the Iditarod dog sled race in 1992 and participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race in 1996. 

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.