Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett broke his personal record for the longest-duration balloon flight and picked up a fast wind Friday that doubled his speed on his round-the-world quest.
At midday, the Chicago financier was traveling east over the Indian Ocean, 2,000 miles west of Australia, in his bid to become the first person to fly nonstop around the globe in a balloon.He had been in the air for close to seven days, surpassing the personal best of six days, two hours and 54 minutes, set in January 1997.
Fossett still has a few more days to go before breaking the longest-lasting flight ever. That record, of nine days, 17 hours and 55 minutes, was set in January by Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard and his crew. Piccard's round-the-world bid was abandoned when China balked at allowing him into its airspace.
Alan Blount, director of Fossett's control center at Washington University in St. Louis, was confident Fossett could break Piccard's record.
"Steve sent a letter to a competitor that says he has the fuel and the equipment to go all the way," Blount said. "That tells us two things: He's confident in his equipment, and he's focused on the goal."
On Friday afternoon, Fossett sped up to 75 mph on a wind that saved him from a high-pressure system that would have kept him going in circles and used up precious fuel for the heater that keeps the balloon aloft.