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Sunday, 17 June, 2001, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Solo balloonist grounded
Balloon being inflated
Things went wrong as the balloon was inflated
By Dominic Hughes in Kalgoorlie

American adventurer Steve Fossett has been forced to postpone his solo round-the-world balloon journey.

Wind gusts at the launch site in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia tore holes in the balloon as it was being filled, rendering take-off impossible.

Fossett's 1998 attempt to circle globe
He broke records in previous trips, but not the one he wanted
Organisers had delayed filling the balloon because of concerns over a breeze that sprang up in the afternoon. By mid-evening the winds had eased and so the process of filling the balloon with hundreds of cubic litres of helium began.

But after about an hour and with the balloon only partially inflated, the winds returned.

Ground crews struggled to keep the balloon in place with ropes attached to its mid-section as the wind strengthened a rip suddenly appeared first in one side of the balloon canopy and then on the other.

Damage

Within a few seconds the capsule that Fossett had hoped to complete his 15-day journey in overturned.

Ground crew were sent sprawling and the huge metal canisters attached to the side of the capsule that were containing helium were shunted off. Any further attempts at launching this solo round-the-world balloon journey are now severely delayed.


Fossett was going to spend 15 days in the balloon
Steve Fossett's support team had said earlier that the weather was perfect for him to launch his circumnavigation attempt.

A previous solo record attempt almost cost Fossett his life when he plunged into the sea 800 kilometres (500 miles) from the east coast of Australia.

The 57-year-old thought this was the best prepared attempt he has been involved in and he said nothing was being taken for granted.

But he did admit he was worried about problems related to inflating the balloon, the launch and ascent.

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16 Aug 98 | Americas
Balloonist ditches into sea
21 Jan 98 | Balloon race
Flights of fancy
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