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A flight of fancy - and fact

Shades of the fictional Phileas Fogg! Joe W. Kittinger has just completed a fabled balloon flight of his own - not around the world, but across the Atlantic and on to Italy. It didn't take him 80 days, only four. Unlike Fogg, he traveled solo.

Kittinger evidently set two records en route to his triumph of the individual in an era when individuality seems harder than ever to assert. His definitely was the first solo balloon crossing of the Atlantic. Reportedly it was also the longest (3,500 miles) solo balloon flight, period. It's a lighter-than-air parallel, minus the fanfare, to Charles Lindbergh's arresting first solo airplane flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis 57 years ago, in 1927. Kittinger's balloon triumph isn't his first world record, which certainly had its elements of daring, too: free-falling 16 miles before opening his parachute.

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For most of us, being the best we can be means bringing inspiration and perspiration to bear on comparatively ground-level tasks. Only do our fancies drift off, balloonlike, on such adventures. Bravo Kittinger!