The story of the first successful transatlantic balloon flight, in 1978, begins with failure and ends in a Lindbergh-like explosion of homage in France. In 1977 Maxie Anderson was a self-made millionaire with a stable of Arabian horses, a ski condominium, a sailboat, a mining company, four bright kids, and a long happy marriage, but he was melancholy and needed some new world to conquer. When he read in the National Geographic about the latest failure of a heliumfilled balloon to capture the glory of a first-crossing, he decided to do the so-far impossible. Readers who think such a long-distance flight is merely a matter of going up and crossing your fingers will be awestruck by the skills involved--many to be learned only in the act. Maxie's pal Ben Abruzzo, another selfmade tycoon of sorts, had often accompanied him on hot-air balloon races and was ready as copilot. The two men got their team together and discovered just how much they didn't know. Their first flight was a disaster--on the third day, they had to be rescued in midair by helicopter from a maelstrom of snow and ice. Ben's foot was permanently injured by frostbite. But they quickly set about planning another attempt and this time enlisted a third man, Larry Newman, to spell them on their watches and act as radioman. Larry is a neophyte and a maddening chatterbox, but he is also a master of hang-gliding, a significant plus. The stillness aloft is disorienting: for six breathless days even a sheet of paper is safe from blowing out of their gondola--they are the wind! Meanwhile the psychological battles grow ever more tense, with death as the payoff. Tingling right up to that rapturous arrival.