Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer Successfully Takes Off for ‘The Ultimate Flight’ – The Longest Flight Ever Record Attempt

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., Feb. 8 /PRNewswire/ — Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer Mission Control today announced that Steve Fossett, the legendary aviator and record breaker, has successfully launched the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer aircraft from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 07:22 EST (12:22 UTC). The ground conditions were perfect for take off with North to South head winds and a temperature of 47F/8C.

This is the first of many obstacles that Steve Fossett will have to overcome in his bid to achieve the longest flight ever — a record attempt which will take him and the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer aircraft to the their very limits, flying further than any aircraft or balloon has flown before.

Yesterday Steve Fossett was forced to postpone the flight following a fuel leak which was discovered thirty minutes before the planned take off. The mechanical problem, which occurred with the new boom vent systems which were installed after the aircraft experienced a loss of fuel during last year’s successful round the world record flight, was fixed yesterday afternoon and tested by the engineering team.

Flight data and reports from Steve will be sent back to Mission Control for analysis throughout the flight, due to yesterday’s set back fuel systems will be under close scrutiny throughout the duration of the flight. Last March Steve Fossett achieved the first ever, solo non-stop circumnavigation of the world, despite losing over 3000 lbs of fuel due to a technical problem with the fuel tanks

Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commented:

“It was such a disappointment yesterday that a minor technical issue resulted in a call off thirty minutes before launch, the whole team were totally deflated, as up until that moment everything thing was looking good. Watching Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer successfully launch this morning, my thoughts and heartfelt congratulations were not only with Steve, but with the whole team who have worked so hard preparing the aircraft for this grueling flight.

“Steve is not only an inspirational record breaker but also a close friend of mine and so I wish him the very best of luck on, what could perhaps be described as, his most challenging record attempt to date and I look forward to welcoming the plane in England in around three days time!”

Kevin Stass, Mission Control Director, commented:

“This successful take off means that Steve Fossett and the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer has overcome its first major challenge however it has many more to come in the next 80 hours!

“Everyone at Mission Control will be closely monitoring the fuel consumption readings which come back from the aircraft throughout the flight, but particularly in the initial climb and first few hours of flight which is when we suffered the dramatic loss of fuel during the round-the-world attempt.”

It is hoped the record attempt will be successfully completed in around 80 hours.

The pioneering aircraft — the world’s most efficient jet plane — has been designed by aviation legend Burt Rutan. The aircraft took off at a weight of 22,100 lbs — fuel accounts for 18,000 lbs of this to enable the aircraft to achieve the longest flight ever.

Last March during the round-the-world record attempt the aircraft took off with 18,100 lbs of fuel but within the first few hours of flight 3,088 lbs of fuel disappeared. Scaled Composites has 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 1,500 lbs of fuel. These factors gave the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer team the confidence to believe the aircraft can fly much further than any previous plane or balloon.

Mission Control will be based at Virgin Atlantic Airways Global Headquarters in Crawley, which is located approximately one hour south of London. Mission Control Director Kevin Stass will be in constant communication with pilot Steve Fossett throughout flight. If successful, Steve Fossett will land at Kent International Airport, near London, after having flown around 26.000 miles.

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 25,977 miles (41,806 km) in approximately 80 hours.

The aircraft is a single pilot, single engine turbofan aircraft designed for non-stop global circumnavigation. Scaled used computer aided aerodynamics to design the aircraft. The structure of the plane is entirely made from composite material and will be ultra light. The aircraft will fly at 45,000 ft and travel 40,000 km at speeds in excess of 250 knots (285 mph, 440 kph). The aircraft will fly 75% further than the range record for jet-powered planes.

A dedicated web site — www.virginatlanticglobalflyer.com — will provide updates and details of the record attempt including an unprecedented level of live communication from the aircraft during the flight itself. The site is being designed and managed by Conchango and hosted by Energis.

The website will be updated constantly from Mission Control so for up to date information please log onto www.virginatlanticglobalflyer.com

Related Articles