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Sat, Feb 02, 2008

Coast Guard Searches For Missing Balloonist

Disappeared Thursday Over Aleutians

Searchers with the US Coast Guard are continuing efforts to find a Japanese hot-air balloonist, who disappeared Thursday while on a trip from Japan to Oregon.

The Associated Press reports world-record holder Michio Kanda, 58, went missing over the North Pacific, about 435 miles south of Adak Island in the Aleutians chain. Two C-130s dispatched Thursday night failed to detect the balloon on radar.

Friends last spoke with the balloonist -- who is attempting to beat his own world record for longest-duration hot air balloon flight -- Thursday morning, shortly after he took off solo from Tochigi, Japan, bound for Portland.

USCG Petty Officer Levi Read said Kanda was carrying a survival suit and provisions onboard his craft, in addition to the sat phone and a GPS. Two Coast Guard cutter ships are also enroute to the search area, though neither was expected to arrive until Saturday at the earliest.

According to the World Air Sports Foundation, Kanda -- along with teammate Hirosuke Takezawa -- set the current duration record for a hot-air balloon in 1997, with a time of 50 hours, 38 minutes. For that trip, the two flew from Alberta, Canada to Montana.

FMI: www.uscg.mil

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