|4 July 2002
Fossett's landing held up by high winds
By Barbie Dutter in Sydney
Steve Fossett, the first man to circle the world solo in a hot air balloon, was prevented from landing yesterday by high winds, leaving him drifting above the outback.
The 58-year-old millionaire adventurer from Chicago had planned to steer his Spirit of Freedom craft - which is 140ft tall and 60ft wide - towards the desert plains of South Australia and Western Australia for a dusk landing.
Returning to earth is widely acknowledged as one of the riskiest manoeuvres of the round-the-world flight. Fossett will be searching for trees or shrubland to crash the balloon into and prevent it being dragged along the ground.
Fossett's successful solo circumnavigation, completed in 13.5 days, was his sixth attempt at one of aviation's few unaccomplished feats. He was almost killed in 1998 when his balloon plunged into the Coral Sea, off Australia's north-east coast.
Sir Richard Branson, who tried but failed to achieve the feat, paid tribute to Fossett's tenacity. He said the achievement was greater even than that of Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic.
"What Steve has achieved is nothing short of remarkable. He has tried time and time again and never given up despite coming close to death on a number of occasions," he said in a statement.
Fossett is now planning his next adventure - flying a glider up to the stratosphere, above 60,000ft, from southern New Zealand.