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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Balloonist passes quarter-way mark
American balloonist Steve Fossett has completed a quarter of his journey as he attempts to become the first person to single-handedly fly a balloon around the world.

According to his mission control team he is currently over the Pacific, headed towards the coast of Chile, having travelled some 9654 km (5999 miles).


Now I just want to fly the next quarter faster, although the goal is worth whatever time it takes

Steve Fossett
The former stockbroker has now been in the air for 5 days since he took off in his 50-metre (164-foot) high silver balloon, called Solo Spirit, from Western Australia on Sunday.

The eastern circumnavigation is expected to take between 14 to 20 days, depending on the weather and the course that he takes.

"It's been a fine tour so far. I'm relieved that things are working as well as they are. Now I just want to fly the next quarter faster, although the goal is worth whatever time it takes," Mr Fossett said.

Acclimatising

The balloon is travelling at an altitude of 6,400 m (21,000 feet).

There were concerns that Mr Fossett would not have enough oxygen to complete the course, after he had to use more than expected in early stages of the flight.

Fossett balloon
Fossett has been enjoying the view

But his crew said that he had now acclimatised and had been able to cut his oxygen consumption from five litres a minute to just two.

Mr Fossett's team said that the American adventurer was doing well.

"Everything is in good shape," said chief meteorologist Bob Rice. "The balloon is pretty much where we wanted it for the best speed and track currently available."

Mr Fossett's team say that he has been enjoying the view from his lofty home, struck by the beauty of the oceans and islands below him as he passed over the South Pacific.

Problems

Mr Fossett encountered some problems in the early stages of the flight - on Monday he was forced to dump two propane tanks after his balloon began veering off course.

And when he lost communications for five hours he had to climb out of the capsule to replace a broken antenna.

Steve Fossett speaking to spectators on Saturday night before lift-off
So far, so good

It is Mr Fossett's sixth attempt to circumnavigate the globe; he nearly died three years ago when thunderstorms tore the canopy of his balloon, sending him plunging 9,000 metres (29,000 feet) into the ocean where he was rescued by the New Zealand navy.

After passing over Chile and Argentina the balloon is set to head across the south Atlantic, around the tip of South Africa and out across the Indian Ocean before landing back in Australia.

See also:

08 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Balloonist crosses international dateline
05 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Solo balloonist soars away
17 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Solo balloonist grounded
16 Aug 98 | Americas
Balloonist ditches into sea
03 Mar 00 | Americas
World balloon record attempt fails
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