Balloonist Aborts Globe-Circling Effort

From Associated Press

Tired, cold, off course and out of power, an American millionaire landed roughly in a field Wednesday after aborting his bid to become the first person to circle the Earth nonstop in a balloon.

Steve Fossett had lifted off from South Dakota's Black Hills early Monday and rapidly encountered extreme cold, a dead heater and trouble with his autopilot system.

By Wednesday morning, after covering more than 1,800 miles but getting just three hours of sleep in two nights, he was jettisoning equipment into the water off New Brunswick in a desperate struggle to stay aloft.

"I'm rather disappointed and embarrassed that I didn't do better on this," said Fossett, 51, who bounced around inside his all-weather capsule as it dragged 100 yards across a field and stopped just shy of woods.

In a telephone conversation with his ground crew in Chicago, Fossett said weather had taken him off course. He said he was concerned that he might not have made it across the Atlantic.

"It would have been a very long crossing," he said. "I think we've all underestimated the difficulty."

Fossett said his electrical system failed before dawn Wednesday, knocking out his equipment. Fearing a landing in the frigid waters of the Bay of Fundy and being pushed north by a storm, he changed plans and headed for the Canadian coast.

"I lost all my communications and was having trouble keeping both burners going," he said.

Two helicopters, a Hercules aircraft and a Canadian coast guard cutter had been searching the bay for Fossett's balloon after he sent a distress signal before dawn.

Residents of Hampton, a tiny village in southwestern New Brunswick, snapped up pieces of the fabric and capsule as souvenirs.

The failed trip cost Fossett $300,000. He set the long-distance ballooning record in February in a flight across the Pacific Ocean from Korea to Canada.

British and Dutch balloonists are preparing their own efforts to become the first to circumnavigate the earth nonstop in balloons with three-person crews.

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