03 March 2005


Perhaps Sir Richard Branson is the Howard Hughes of our era...


Fossett Sets Solo Flight Record

US adventurer Steve Fossett has achieved the first solo, non-stop flight around the globe.

Despite a fuel shortage, the 60-year-old pilot landed the Virgin GlobalFlyer plane at Salina airport in Kansas at 1948 GMT.

The millionaire had considered aborting the trip and landing in Hawaii, but he decided to press on because of favourable tail winds.

Mr Fossett said he was "really starting to perk up" as he neared the end.

"I'm enjoying the trip but it's a lot of work for one person," he told reporters via a satellite video.

'Let's go for it'

Mr Fossett left Kansas on Tuesday.

On Wednesday there had been speculation the pilot might have to land the aircraft because of an unexplained loss of fuel.

Project manager Paul Moore said wind conditions and the fuel situation had improved between Japan and Hawaii, prompting Mr Fossett to tell mission control: "Let's go for it."

When asked how he felt after his second full day of flying, Mr Fossett told reporters via satellite phone: "It feels like three days."

"I've gotten minimal naps while keeping my eyes on the instruments," he added.

Flight sponsor Richard Branson expressed confidence in Mr Fossett.

"He's a great glider and so if he runs out of fuel before he gets here he will somehow, we hope, make it all the way," the Virgin Atlantic chief told ABC television.

Fuel load

The experimental plane is able to glide up to 320km (200 miles) without fuel.

Checks revealed on Wednesday that the vehicle was missing 1,200kg (2,600lbs) of fuel.

Mission controllers have been at a loss to explain the discrepancy - whether the plane was incorrectly filled on the runway, or if it burnt off too much fuel in the early stages of the flight.

(1) Fuel tanks - Gross weight is 10 tonnes; empty weight is 1.5t
(2) Engine - Williams FJ44-3 ATW (10,200 Newtons of thrust)
(3) Cockpit - Pressurised and large enough for pilot to lie down
Length - 11.7m; Height - 3.6m; Wingspan - 35m
Speed - in excess of 460km/h; 290mph; 250 knots

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/03/03 19:50:51 GMT



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