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THE WORLD | The Jaundiced Eye

The Allure of Hot Air

January 11, 1998|Christopher Corbett | Christopher Corbett is the author of the novel, "Vacationland."

BALTIMORE, MD. — KRASNODAR, Russia, Jan. 6 (Reuters)-- American millionaire Steve Fossett took a rest Monday night after abandoning a third attempt to make the first nonstop round-the-world balloon trip as at least two teams prepared new bids for the elusive aviation first.

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LONDON, Jan. 7 (Reuters)--In an surprise move on the international ballooning front, normally the elite preserve of wealthy adventurers, the British Press Assn. today reported that a new two-man British team would try to make the first nonstop round-the-world balloon trip.

The previously unheard of British team, headed by an Englishman, Phileas T. Fogg, announced it would attempt to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon. Fogg said he would be accompanied by his valet, whom he identified only as Passepartout. Sources familiar with ballooning in Britain told the press association that Fogg was "an eccentric" with no previous ballooning experience.

Speaking to reporters at the Reform Club in Pall Mall, Fogg said he had been invited to join American millionaire balloonist Steve Fossett, who was hoping to make his fourth attempt to circle the globe.

LONDON, Jan. 8 (Reuters)--Eccentric English balloonist Phileas T. Fogg agreed today to join American millionaire Steve Fossett in the 53-year-old finance company chief's fourth attempt to circle the globe in a balloon. Fogg said he and his valet, Passepartout, a French national, would assist Fossett in making the trip.

LONDON, Jan. 9 (Reuters)--International balloonists were stunned today when eccentric English balloonist Phileas T. Fogg, who has teamed with American millionaire Steve Fossett, said he would circle the globe in a hot-air balloon in 80 days. Fossett, said to be shocked by Fogg's announcement, was negotiating with his colleague via telephone satellite.

LONDON, Jan. 10 (Reuters)--Phileas T. Fogg, the eccentric Englishman invited by American millionaire Steve Fossett to circle the globe in a balloon, threatened today to quit if the 53-year-old finance company chief did not agree to his plan to circle the globe in 80 days.

Meanwhile, sources quoted by CNN said Fogg was also negotiating with two other American balloonists, Dick Rutan and Dave Melton. Rutan and Melton had planned a similar bid to circle the globe in a balloon but bailed out by parachute the day they started.

KRASNODAR, Russia, Jan. 11 (Reuters)--American millionaire Steve Fossett disputed reports today that eccentric English balloonist Phileas T. Fogg was not aiding him in attempting to circle the globe in a balloon. Fossett said Fogg and his valet, identified only as Passepartout, would join him in this remote Russian city by week's end.

Fossett, who has been treated like royalty by the Russian peasants who rescued him when his balloon crashed, has been holding court at a government-run hotel and negotiating with Fogg by satellite from London.

LONDON, Jan. 12 (Reuters)--The on-again, off-again saga of whether American millionaire Steve Fossett would be joined by eccentric English balloonist Phileas T. Fogg in an attempt to circle the globe in a balloon took another twist today when British tabloids claimed Fogg was wagering on the venture--a violation of international ballooning strictures.

The Sun quoted employees of the Reform Club as saying the bon vivant had made substantial wagers with various club members, as well as with the British bookmakers Ladbrokes, claiming he would circle the globe in 80 days.

Meanwhile, in the United States, rival balloonists Dick Rutan and Dave Melton, previously said to be negotiating with Fogg, added a new twist. At a hastily called news conference at an Albuquerque, N.M., park, the pair announced an unidentified balloonist would assist them in their bid to be the first to circle the Earth.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Jan. 11 (AP)--American balloonists Dick Rutan and Dave Melton announced they would attempt to circle the globe via balloon with two new companions.

Melton and Rutan were joined here by a wealthy Kansas debutante, whom they identified only as Dorothy. The young woman, who Rutan and Melton would not allow to speak with reporters, arrived by private jet accompanied by an older couple, whom Rutan and Melton identified only as "Uncle Henry" and "Auntie Em." They were whisked away by limo. CNN described the young woman as "about 16 years of age." Reporters said she was wearing dark glasses, a simple gingham dress and carrying a small dog.

Meanwhile, in Krasnodar, Russia, American millionaire Steve Fossett was joined by eccentric English balloonist Phileas T. Fogg and his valet, identified only as Passepartout, a mysterious French national. The trio was behind closed doors discussing their options. Fossett has enjoyed near godlike status in this remote district since he crash-landed earlier this week.

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