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U.S. Balloonist Hits One-Third Mark

August 13, 1998

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Adventurer Steve Fossett’s quest to fly a balloon nonstop around the world was in danger of becoming stalled by calm weather.

Fossett had to drop his hot-air-and-helium balloon to a lower altitude, while his ground crew worked on a solution to the problem.

The Chicago millionaire and his Solo Spirit balloon were about 2,400 miles off the coast of Australia early today, flying east over the Indian Ocean at 60 mph, according to his control center at Washington University in St. Louis.

He had traveled 8,700 miles from his starting point in Argentina on his fourth attempt to circle the globe.

Fossett’s control center said he was on track toward Australia but might be in danger of getting caught in a high-pressure zone.

``The high-pressure zone means really good weather, with no winds,″ said mission control spokeswoman Marie Finkelman. ``It would sort of park him and not put him in an ideal position for the next leg of the trip.″

The chief concern was fuel supply. There also was concern that Fossett could get caught in a system that would carry him south toward Antarctica, with temperatures too frosty for him to endure.

The crew told Fossett on Wednesday to drop Solo Spirit from his cruising altitude of 25,000 feet down to about 20,000 feet to reach a wind current that would carry him around the high-pressure zone.

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