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Global balloon race to get off the ground tonight

Fossett's crew
Fossett's crew prepares for takeoff in Busch Stadium   

First 2 contenders vie for record

December 31, 1997
Web posted at: 1:16 p.m. EST (1816 GMT)

From Correspondent Patty Davis

ST. LOUIS (CNN) -- Chicago millionaire Steve Fossett plans to ring out the old year tonight by launching his third attempt to go around the world non-stop in a balloon from Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis.

Fossett said he hopes to launch between 7 and 10 p.m. EST.

Five balloonists are vying to be the first to circle the globe in a hot air balloon without landing, including three who may begin their attempts in the next few days.

Anheuser-Busch will pay $1 million to the winner, who will donate half to charity.

A L S O :

Five teams poised for round-the-world balloon race

Fossett made an attempt at the record earlier but his balloon landed in an India mustard field after six days in the air. He blamed the failure on not carrying enough propane fuel to allow the proper steering that is needed in altitude changes.


Fossett will use a bigger balloon this time, and control its altitude by working a propane ethane burner.

Fossett, president of his own securities company, is paying for his $350,000 balloon himself.

"It's for a sense of personal achievement," Fossett has said, "This is an objective, perhaps the greatest unachieved goal in aviation."

While most of those attempting the flight are millionaires, a Chicago architect is doing it on his own, tapping into his life savings and corporate support to get off the ground in suburban Rockford, Illinois, around sundown Wednesday.

Attempting his big dream on a small shoestring, Kevin Uliassi has amassed $300,000 from various sources, including corporate sponsors, his bank account and even a loan with a balloon payment.

Fossett crashes
Fossett makes a crash landing in India during an earlier flight   

Even though Uliassi's longest balloon trip has been just over 100 miles, he doesn't consider himself a long shot.

"I look forward to it as an adventure," he told CNN earlier this month, "I know I'll be uncomfortable. I may be cold, I may not be as well fed as I am here on the ground. But I'm really looking forward to the flight. I enjoy every balloon flight I've ever had, even the tough ones."

Helium for Uliassi's balloon arrived at his launch site Wednesday morning.

Both Fossett and Uliassi are attempting to fly solo -- meaning they get little sleep. Their journeys could take three weeks or more, in sub-zero temperatures.


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