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Balloonist Close to His Own Record

June 29, 2002

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ST. LOUIS (AP) _ American adventurer Steve Fossett on Saturday closed in on the coast of South Africa and on breaking his own record for distance covered by a solo balloonist.

As of 5 p.m. EDT, the 58-year-old Chicago millionaire had traveled 13,790 miles in his around-the-world balloon quest, about 445 miles short of the distance he covered in a 1998 attempt that began in Argentina and ended with a crash landing in the Coral Sea.

Fossett could complete the trip early this week, weather permitting, according to his flight center at Washington University. ``Everything is going according to plan,″ meteorologist David Dehenauw said.

This is Fossett’s sixth attempt to complete the around-the-world solo flight. His fifth try in August 2001 set a duration record of 12 days, 12 hours and 57 minutes aloft.

No balloonist has successfully made the around-the-world trip alone, although Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard and English co-pilot Brian Jones did it as a team in March 1999 in the Northern Hemisphere.

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