Thursday, July 04, 2002

Balloonists hail Fossett

16-balloon salute not just hot air

By Randy Tucker,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The completion of American balloonist Steven Fossett's history-making journey around the globe received a 16-balloon salute Wednesday at Coney Island.

[photo] Eric Terranova of Fairfield attaches a flag to his family's balloon tether Wednesday at Coney Island.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
        Balloon enthusiasts gathered for a previously planned “balloon glow” — in which hot-air balloons are inflated but remained tethered — lauded Mr. Fossett for his skill and courage.

        “It (his flight) is every bit equal to (Charles) Lindbergh flying around the world alone in a plane,” said Charles Green, who runs Air American Hot Air Balloon Co. in Batavia. “Two guys from Europe went around the world a couple of years ago in a balloon. But it's different when you're flying alone. The question becomes who's going to fly ... when you're sleeping.”

        In March 1999, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones became the first men to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon, the Breitling Orbiter 3.

        But unlike Mr. Fossett, Mr. Piccard and Mr. Jones used a balloon with a pressurized cabin that allowed them to fly high above storms and other foul weather.

        The Europeans also had the luxury of being able to take turns navigating the balloon while one of the two men slept.

        Mr. Fossett had to rely on a sophisticated, but not foolproof, autopilot system.

        “He did it the true ballooning way,” said Scott McClinton of Louisville, who brought his balloon up to Cincinnati for the balloon ascension at Coney Island. “Anytime he got above 1,400 feet, he had to use oxygen. And he was navigating around thunderstorms, while (Mr. Piccard and Mr. Jones) were flying over them with the airplanes.”

        Mr. Fossett, 58, brought his balloon down safely in Queensland, Australia.

        He set off from Western Australia on June 18 on his sixth attempt to circle the globe.


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