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H. Ross Perot Jr., son of the computer magnate,...

DALLAS -- H. Ross Perot Jr., son of the computer magnate, took off today on a 26,000-mile helicopter flight around the world, hoping to overtake an Australian aviator who is three weeks into an identical mission.

Perot, 23, who has dubbed his 30-day, 26-nation tour the 'Spirit of Texas,' departed Dallas Love Field at 7 a.m. in a modified 2-seat Bell 206 Long-Ranger chopper with co-pilot Jay Coburn, 35, a Vietnam veteran combat pilot.

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Perot, whose father heads Electronic Data Systems of Dallas, said he started planning the trip three weeks ago, when Australian pilot Dick Smith took off from Fort Worth, Texas, trying to circle the globe for the first time.

'Since America has always been the leader in aviation, I thought it was a shame for someone not a citizen of the United States to set the world record,' said young Perot.

There are two remaining obslacles to the trip -- weather, and the Russians, who are denying Perot permission to refuel on the Soviet Pacific coast.

But young Perot has overcome a formidable obstacle: his father.

'The hardest part was convincing my father to let me,' he said.

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The elder Perot, 52, is himself an adventurer who organized the 1979 rescue of two imprisoned EDS employees in Iran and who tried unsuccessfully to deliver Christmas presents to American POWs in Vietnam.

'I kept trying to talk Ross out of it,' Perot Sr. said. 'But finally I decided one day that I would rather have a son who wanted to do these things than one who didn't.'

Perot's helicopter is a stripped down version of the commercial model, with advanced navigation equipment and a fuel tank that expands fuel capacity from 98 gallons to 250.

The flight will be accompanied by an airplane carrying support personnel, and Perot said he planned to make the flight straight through, spending 12 hours a day in the air, while Smith makes promotional stopovers. At that rate, Perot said he would overtake the Australian in about a week.

'Mr. Smith is on a completely different type of trip than we are making,' he said. 'He's doing it for commercial reasons. Our goal is to be the first to go around the world.'

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