|Volume: 03, Issue: 05||03/09/2005|
Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer Lands in Record BooksVirgin Atlantic’s Global Flyer aircraft cruised into the record books March 3, 2005 after the first solo, non-stop, non-refueled around-the-world airplane trip. Pilot Steve Fossett safely landed the aircraft in Salina, Kan., after a journey lasting just over 67 hours.
The Global Flyer’s feat is even more amazing considering roughly 2,600 pounds of fuel vanished shortly after takeoff. The team was concerned about the missing fuel and briefly considered ending the mission when the craft reached Hawaii, but the weather cooperated.
“I hit the jetstream very well, which… put us in a better fuel position,” Fossett said.
Strong tailwinds across the Pacific from the coast of Japan carried Fossett between 100-130 knots from the coast of Japan to Hawaii. Fossett was able to continue and later touched down safely at the Salina airport.
The pioneering aircraft was designed by aviation legend Burt Rutan and built by Scaled Composites. Global Flyer is a single-pilot, single-engine turbofan aircraft designed for non-stop global circumnavigation. The structure of the plane is entirely made from composite material and is ultra light. It can carry more than four times its own weight in fuel.
“It is fantastic to see this unique and experimental aircraft in all its glory,” said Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic. “Flying solo, non-stop around the world has been a dream of Steve’s for some time, and Virgin Atlantic is proud and delighted to help turn this ambition into reality.”
In the late 1990s, Branson and Fossett began a spirited competition to become the first to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon. They eventually joined forces but were not able to achieve the feat. In 2002, Fossett succeeded in a solo attempt.
Fossett is well known for his record-breaking adventures in balloons, sailboats, gliders and powered aircraft. Along with co-pilot Terry Delore, Fossett set nine of the 19 Glider Open records. In 2002 he received aviation's highest award, the Gold Medal of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI).
Branson has also been successful in his aviation quests, setting the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in his boat Virgin Atlantic Challenger II in 1986. In 1987, the Virgin Atlantic Flyer, with Branson at the controls, became the first hot air balloon to cross the Atlantic. Branson achieved the other great oceanic challenge in 1991, crossing the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Arctic Canada, again breaking all existing records with speeds of up to 245 mph in a balloon measuring 2.6 million cubic feet.
For more information about the Global Flyer mission, visit http://www.virginatlanticglobalflyer.com/ .
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