National Geographic : 1997 Sep
O Day One Takeoff from St. Louis. Cabin heater problems begin almost immediately. U.S. military monitors flight through restricted airspace off North Carolina. O Day Two Passes over Hamilton, Bermuda; sets sights on Europe. O Day Three Steers south of Europe, bypassing a storm system but heading toward North Africa, where overflight per missions have not been granted. O Day Four Over southern Algeria, sets balloon distance record; maneuver around Libya costs precious time and fuel. 0 Day Five Becomes first balloon to cross Africa; reaches Persian Gulf. 0 Day Six Flies over Strait of Hormuz; reaches central India. O Day Seven Sets balloon endurance and distance records; lands near Sultanpur, India. Second Wind When Solo Spirit is refused per mission to fly over Libya, team meteorologist Lou Billones studies global wind patterns for a detour. If Fossett stays at 24,500 feet (A), prevailing winds will carry him into Libya. So he vents off helium to drop to 18,200 feet and pick up a slower breeze that's blowing southward. After drifting 308 miles, Fossett gets word that Libya has finally acquiesced. He heats the balloon (B) and rises, making up some lost time on fast winds at 27,800 feet. After about 150 miles (C) he descends to a more comfortable 24,500 feet. He sails across Chad, nips Libya's southeast corner, and flies on toward yet another record: first to cross Africa by balloon. -I -I -IiI November 1783 First Flight Pitchforking straw into a fire at the neck of their balloon, Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes cover about five miles over Paris in 25 minutes. July 1897 Arctic Attempt Expecting winds to carry them across the North Pole, three Swedish balloonists survive a crash-but die, possibly from eating bad polar bear meat. November 1935 Altitude Record The National Geographic/U.S. Army-sponsored Explorer II lifts two airmen and more than two tons of equipment 72,395 feet. The record stands for 21 years. August 1960 Highest Jump U.S. Air Force para trooper Joseph Kittinger rides to 102,800 feet-and steps out. His free fall speed reaches 614 mph before he lands safely in the New Mexico desert. August 1978 Atlantic Transit Maxie Anderson, Ben Abruzzo, and Larry Newman suc ceed where 13 pre vious attempts had failed, flying from Maine to France in 137 hours, 6 minutes. January 1997 Longest Flight Solo Spirit pilot Steve Fossett sets dual records for distance and dura tion: 10,360.61 miles in 6 days, 2 hours, 44 minutes.