Steve Fosset, 60 year old billionaire entrepreneur aviator pilots the globalflyer in the first solo no-refueling circumnavigation record-breaking 3-day flight.
The flight took exactly 67 hours, 2 minutes and 38 seconds and ended at the 12,000 foot runway in Salina, Kansas. Salinas was chosen as the final stop in this aviation breakthrough flight precisely because of its superior length.
Proud citizens of Salina, it’s high school Cougar band, the press, his long-time friend, fellow aviator, co-sponsor and head of Virgin Atlantic, Richard Branson and Fosset’s wife greeted the smiling Steve warmly.
Upmost on everyone’s mind was the physical state that Steve Fosset would be in after being cooped up in a sitting position in the 7-foot long cockpit for the entire flight, drinking water, protein shakes and only able to indulge in short cat naps throughout.
He stood strongly, waved continuously, ran away a bit when Richard Branson doused him properly with celebratory champagne. He looked as cheery and strong as he did when he completed his previous hot air balloon flight around the world and ran a marathon a day or two afterwards.
The flight was meticulously planned and flawlessly executed. The plane was constructed from highly advanced and durable composite material and carried 13 different tanks of gas.
The breakthrough technology, expert planning and Steve Fosset’s good old-fashioned pilot skill, responsible for continuously maintaining the plane’s balance by shifting fuel consumption from tank to tank, all combined to create the Virgin Atlantic globalflyer victory.
Flying over Hawaii last night, it was discovered that 2,600 pounds of fuel had leaked of the 18,000 pounds originally stored before the plane’s Monday takeoff. The tough decision about whether to call it quits or to continue was evaluated by mission control on the ground, the chase plane and Steve himself.
In the end, with the jet stream sometimes reaching as much as 130 knots and Steve’s continuing good physical condition, Steve said ‘let’s go for it’. Fosset constantly flew in and out of the tailwinds to fulfill marker requirements for the historical circumnavigation. His expert aviation skills combined with the better-than-expected jet stream tipped the balance and brought the globalflyer successfully and safely home.
Burt Ruton, airplane designer, gave Fosset a 8 1/2 score on his landing and commended him on a ‘phenomenal job’. The Smithsonian Institute has already requested that it be chosen as the permanent resting place for the Virgin Atlantic record breaking globalflyer.
Congrats to Steve Fosset, Richard Branson and Burt Ruton for combining money, technology and smarts to produce a record no-refueling solo flight around the world that will herald other aviation breakthroughs for some time to come.