Fossett fails in latest bid to break world gliding altitude record

Friday, September 19th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ American adventurer Steve Fossett failed Friday in his latest bid to set the world glider altitude record in a flight over the snowcapped mountains of southern New Zealand.

Fossett, 58, and former NASA test pilot Einar Enevoldson had hoped the mountain winds would lift their German-made glider above the current record of 49,009 feet.

Their flight to the north of New Zealand's highest peak, the 12,316-foot Mount Cook, stalled at about 25,000 feet.

``At that point they ran out of lift,'' Fossett's partner Mary Howard told The Associated Press. ``It didn't look good enough to continue. The lift was too slow.''

The Chicago millionaire, the first person to fly a hot air balloon solo around the world, was planning another attempt at the gliding record early Saturday morning.

Even before setting off Friday, he sounded pessimistic.

``We don't know that it's really that good today, but that's what we're looking for,'' he told the AP by telephone.

Fossett and Enevoldson were wearing space suits for the record attempt. Temperatures plunged to minus 34.6 Fahrenheit during the flight, Howard said.

Fossett was trying for a second time this year to find the right gliding conditions to break the record set in 1986 by American Bob Harris. Fossett spent 19 days in New Zealand in August but the right conditions for a record bid failed to materialize.

``Tomorrow might be better ... and we're well enough organized that we can turn it around and fly again tomorrow morning ... at first light,'' Fossett said.

Fossett hopes eventually to confirm that conditions in the stratosphere can lift a specially modified glider to 100,000 feet, virtually the edge of space. Commercial passenger jets fly at 30,000 to 38,000 feet.