ready for non-stop tour
Some time this month, 60-year-old thrill-seeker Steve Fossett
plans to climb into the small cockpit of an experimental jet
aircraft and attempt to fly around the world without refuelling,
without company and without sleeping.
make the voyage before delirium sets in, Fossett needs to fly
fast. But to set the record for the first non-stop solo flight
around the world, he cannot take any shortcuts either. The
Virgin Atlantic-backed GlobalFlyer, a gangly and delicate
aircraft designed under the keen eye and artistic hand of Burt
Rutan, was built with these two goals in mind. Rutan has
tackled this problem before. Nearly two decades ago, Rutan and
his team at their California-based Scaled Composites company
built an aeroplane named Voyager.
has collected many world records
was flown by Rutan's own brother, Dick, and co-pilot Jeane
Yeager. The pair took the vehicle around the world using only
the fuel it carried at take-off. It was a difficult, but
successful journey. "Voyager was so fragile, so
dangerous," Dick Rutan said in an interview. "I don't
think the Voyager could have made it if we tried 100 more
times." The plane, which now hangs in the Smithsonian
Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, served as a model when
Rutan started working on an even more challenging solo-pilot
a river of wind
Voyager, GlobalFlyer is a three-hulled vessel crafted from a
compartments are crammed inside the twin outer booms. Both
planes have wingspans suitable for a Boeing 737 - Voyager's
measures 110ft (33.5m), GlobalFlyer's is 114ft (35m).
Designed to minimise drag, the wings change shape during flight,
sagging under the weight of the fuel during take-off, flexing
upward during ascent and flattening at cruise altitude.
Voyager's twin piston engines, however, GlobalFlyer has a single
turbofan jet engine more commonly used to zip lightweight
business jets, such as Cessna Citation Jets and Raytheon
Premiers, through the skies.
feed the turbofan engine, which consumes more fuel than
Voyager's piston engines, GlobalFlyer will have to carry nearly
three times the amount of fuel of its predecessor.
"We're 83% fuel at take-off," GlobalFlyer chief
engineer and test pilot Jon Karkow told the BBC News website.
"Most every internal part of the plane is filled with
the bigger fuel load, GlobalFlyer will fall short of its range
without an additional push from the jet stream, a naturally
occurring high-altitude horizontal wind that moves between 50
and 100 knots (90-180km/h).
Fossett, who will not be wearing a pressurised suit, will aim
for an altitude at least 45,000ft (14km) above the planet's
surface, and up to about 52,000ft (16km) - well above commercial
airline traffic and weather systems. With GlobalFlyer's
18,000lbs (8,100kg) fuel load, it will take Fossett more than 14
hours to reach his cruise altitude. To get there, however,
Fossett must first pilot GlobalFlyer into the sky. The
plane needs a long runway for take-off and originally had been
expected to fly from Edwards Air Force Base in Mojave, Scaled's
But the team decided to look inland, just in case the fuel runs
low and Fossett has to touch down short of his mark. Take-off
and landing are now targeted for Salina, Kansas. The team
plans one more test flight - 23 already have been completed -
before attempting the first solo, unrefuelled, around-the-world
mission. The flight, which has been repeatedly delayed, is
now scheduled to take place no earlier than 8 February.
will have to be an ideal day, with almost no air turbulence from
ground level up to 45,000ft, and no chance of ice formation -
the plane has no de-icing equipment. That said, engineers
would like it to be a cold day, as cooler temperatures make for
denser air and an easier take-off. "It will take off
at the structural margin [of the aircraft]," said Karkow.
"The reserve strength is not very much."
crew chief Philip Grassa: "There's only so much runway.
It's a matter of finding good air."
Fossett has to abort the take-off, he will have little room to
navigate. The Salina runway is 12,300ft (3,750m) long and has a
1,000ft (300m) overrun. "The airplane might not
appreciate it too much if it goes into the rough," Karkow
said. "GlobalFlyer is very demanding of the pilot. He will
have to be very alert and very skilled at handling the
brother, Dick, completed the challenge in Voyager, with Jeane
but hardly forgotten
no one will be sharing GlobalFlyer's seven-foot cabin with
Fossett, he will have plenty of contact with the outside
world. Virgin Atlantic Airways, which paid for the plane,
has arranged for a US space agency (Nasa) video feed to be
relayed through its television satellites.
Parts of the flight may be televised live; other film will be
used for a documentary on the project.
also will have an Iridium satellite phone and text messaging
system, and, at times, a partner in the sky: his own high-speed
Cessna Citation 10 jet.
this craft will be Fossett's backup pilot and financier, Virgin
Group Chairman, Sir Richard Branson, who plans to conduct live
interviews with Fossett throughout the flight. Flight
controllers also will be monitoring Fossett to make sure he does
not fall asleep. The plane is equipped with autopilots,
but Fossett needs to be alert to monitor the equipment. For
three days - perhaps longer - Fossett will have to get by with
10- to 15-minute catnaps.
concept from designer Burt Rutan
set the record, Fossett will have to fly faster and higher than
any previous flights, including the 1986 flight of Voyager. If
Fossett is successful, he could break between three and seven
After take-off from Kansas, GlobalFlyer will head east,
following the jet stream winds over the Atlantic Ocean to the
United Kingdom. From there, Fossett will head southeast
across the Mediterranean and the Gulf before turning east toward
Pakistan, India, China and Japan.
final leg of the journey will be over the Pacific Ocean toward
Hawaii, then across the west coast of the United States and back
cities along the route include Montreal, London, Paris, Rome,
Cairo, Manama, Karachi, Calcutta, Shanghai, Tokyo, Honolulu and
appetite for adventure is unbounded. An American millionaire who
made his fortune trading in the high-risk commodities market,
Fossett is best known for his 2002 solo voyage around the world
in a hot-air balloon.
It was just the latest for a man who has circumnavigated the
globe in boats, aeroplanes and balloons. At the last count, he
holds some 60 or more world records. "The endurance
aspects make it very interesting to me," Fossett said in
interview for the GlobalFlyer.com website.
am in it for the accomplishment, for doing a unique aviation
feat that very few pilots could do," he said.
"The hallmarks of aviation are that solo flights are ranked
higher than crew flights just because of the difficulty and the
level of self-reliance required."
ATLANTIC GLOBAL FLYER - LONG-DISTANCE JET PLANE
weight is 10 tonnes; empty weight is 1.5t
FJ44-3 ATW (10,200 Newtons of thrust)
and large enough for pilot to lie down
Height - 3.6m; Wingspan - 35m
excess of 460km/h; 290mph; 250 knots
Fossett, the 60 -year-old American millionaire and his crew of
12, sailed into the record books at around 1600 BST on Monday
5th April 2004. The 125-foot catamaran Cheyenne shaved almost
six days off the existing record after crossing the official
start and finish line at Le Stiff lighthouse on Ouessant.
Air Medal, Federation
Aeronautique Internationale, 2002
Medal, The Explorers Club,
de l'Aeronautique, France,
Medaille de l'Aero Club de France,
Medal, The Royal Aero Club
of the United Kingdom, April 2003
De La Vaulx, Fédération
Aéronautique Intérnationale, 1995, 1997,1998 and 2002.
de l'Aventure Sportive,
Academie des Sports, France, March 2002
Yachtsman of the Year,
U.S. Sailing Association, 2001
and Airship Hall of Fame,
FAI-CIA, Inducted June 1997
Buffalo, Boy Scouts of
America, May 1999
Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts of
America, May 1998
Aeronautic Association, October 1998
in Exploration, National
Geographic Society, November 1998
Award (Special), Victor
Sports Awards, July 1995 and June 1997
de Montgolfier, Fédération
Aéronautique Intérnationale, March 1996
of Fame, Aviation Week ans
Space Technology, Laureate for Operations, March 2003
Club de France
Yacht Club of Ireland
Nationale de l'Air et de l'Elspace
Club de France (2001-02)
Harbor Yacht Club
Temple Yacht Club
(NZ) Gliding Club
the Attempt About
the Aircraft Steve
the Aircraft Steve
Fossett Biography Richard
Branson Biography Virgin
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