NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
has been confirmed as the launch site for “The Ultimate Flight,” which will see Steve
Fossett pilot the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer aircraft in order to set the record for the longest flight of all time. Steve Fossett
will attempt fly over 700 miles further than any aircraft or balloon has flown.
Steve Fossett described his feelings on the
attempt, “The longest distance airplane flight is possible with the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer but is a huge challenge. To have NASA’s support on this attempt gives this record
attempt the best possible start. The Ultimate Flight will take me to the very edge of my ability and endurance.”
The aircraft is expected to be repositioned to Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility, Florida on January 6, with the record attempt scheduled for launch in
February 2006. Exact dates are dependent on favourable weather and jet stream conditions. At 15,000 feet, the Space Shuttle landing runway is one of the few runways
in the United States that is suitable for the long takeoff roll of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. Kent International Airport, near London, has one of the longest runways in the
UK and will be the airport where the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer will land.
In March 2005, Fossett piloted the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, successfully circumnavigating the globe flying 22,928 miles (36,898 km) for the First Solo Nonstop around
the world flight. The current record for the longest aeroplane flight is held by the Voyager aircraft, which flew for 24,987 miles (40,212 km) in 1986. The longest flight by
any kind of aircraft is held by the Breitling Orbiter balloon which flew for 25,361 miles (40,814 km) in 1999. After take off from the Kennedy Space Center Steve Fossett will
circumnavigate the globe, then continuing on, flying across the North Atlantic and landing at Kent International airport. Steve Fossett aims to beat both of these existing
records - in so doing he will cover 26,084 miles (41,978 km) in approximately 80 hours.
Commenting on “The Ultimate Flight” record attempt, Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways,
said, “Steve Fossett has set more records than anyone else alive. He is aviations greatest living pilot and this record will further secure his place in the record books.
Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer proved with last year’s record-setting flight, constantly pushing boundaries in order to apply innovations like lightweight composites and
fuel-efficient systems can change the face of flying in the future. February’s Ultimate Flight attempt will take us one step closer to making that future a reality.”
Mission Control will be based at Virgin Atlantic Airways Global Headquarters in Crawley, which is located approximately one hour south of London. From there, the
Mission Control team, lead by Mission Controller Kevin Stass, will monitor the progress of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer around the world through constant
communication with Steve Fossett in the aircraft.
In March 2005, Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer suffered a dramatic loss of fuel that threatened to prevent Steve Fossett achieving the circumnavigation. The aircraft took off
with 18,100lbs of fuel but within the first few hours of flight 3,088lbs of fuel disappeared. Scaled Composites (the Burt Rutan company which built the plane) have since
established that the fuel escaped through vents in the fuel tank behind the engine and have made modifications to prevent this happening again. Despite this loss the
aircraft performed better than expected and landed with 1,500lbs of fuel. These factors give the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer team the confidence to believe the aircraft can
fly much further than any previous plane or balloon. The January 6 flight from Salina, Kansas (where the plane has been based ) to the Kennedy Space Center will, in
reality, be the first time the fuel system modifications will be tested, making it much more than a routine repositioning flight.
The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer aircraft is a single pilot with a single Williams jet engine. Scaled used computer aided aerodynamics to design the aircraft. The structure of
the plane is entirely made from composite material and is ultra light. The aircraft has a ceiling of 51,000 feet but will fly mostly at 45,000ft and travel at speeds in excess of
250knots (285 mph, 440kph).
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