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Friday, 3 March, 2000, 19:09 GMT
World balloon record attempt fails
Balloon launch
The flight was scheduled to take three weeks
Kevin Uliassi has failed in his attempt to become the first balloonist to fly solo around the world, touching down in Myanmar nearly halfway to the finishing line.

"He is safe and in good condition," said Scott Lorenz, spokesman for Uliassi's Chicago-based expedition.

Mr Uliassi travelled more than 21,160 kilometres (13,225 miles) since taking off from Illinois in the United States 10 days ago.

Kevin Uliassi had to steer around storms
Kevin Uliassi had to steer around storms
Record holder Steve Fossett managed 14,235 miles in 1998.

Mr Uliassi's balloon - the J Renee - landed just before midday GMT.

There was no immediate word on whether he was forced down or decided to end the flight rather than take on a Pacific Ocean crossing with dwindling fuel supplies.

Mr Uliassi's wife, Renee, told a US television chanel that they would decide soon whether her husband would continue his flight, based on a review of his fuel and other considerations.

A statement from mission control said the balloon had been spotted shortly before coming to a stop and that its position had been reported to local authorities.

Military-controlled Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has not released details of the landing site.

Delays

The 36-year-old engineer left from Rockford, Illinois, on 22 February, cruising southeast to the Caribbean and across the Atlantic to Africa. He crossed India late on Thursday.

But it was over the Atlantic last week that the solo circumnavigation attempt - his second - ran into problems.

It took longer to cross than he anticipated, thunderstorms forcing him to zigzag and change altitude several times.

The delay left him unsure whether he had enough fuel and supplies to make it across the Pacific.

"In any long distance balloon flight there are several points where or a 'go' or 'no-go' decision has to be made," spokesman Scott Lorenz said.

Record intact

To count as an around-the-world flight, a balloon must cross all lines of longitude and must cover at least half the length of the equator, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the governing body of air sports.

The distance around the globe at the equator is 24,902 miles.

Watching Mr Uliassi's progress closely was the world solo balloon flight record holder, Steve Fossett, who in 1998 was forced to ditch in the Pacific after a storm off Australia.

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