Sir Richard Branson today welcomed Steve Fossett back from his epic Round the World sailing journey where Steve gained yet another world record - completing the course in just over 58 days and smashing the previous record by six days. Steve Fossett is now set to commence the next phase of flight testing of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer within a matter of weeks. Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic, said:
“What an incredible achievement. This confirms Steve Fossett’s position as the greatest adventurer alive today. He already holds over 100 world records in aviation, power boating, motor racing, ballooning, gliding, running, dog sledging, and sailing. He’s climbed pretty much every mountain there is and he’s swum most Channels, including the English Channel!
“This October, we hope he’ll add to his trans-global sailing and ballooning records, by becoming the first person to fly solo, non-stop around the world in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. I am delighted to welcome Steve back and am especially pleased he is in good health and able to start the next crucial stage of flight.
“While Steve has been away I have received fantastic reports back from Burt Rutan and his test team on the performance of the aircraft and am sure the next phase of flight testing will prove just as successful.”
The Virgin Atlantic GlobaFlyer - the world’s most efficient jet plane - has been designed by aviation legend Burt Rutan and built by his company Scaled Composites at their headquarters in the Mojave desert. The pioneering aircraft is undergoing a comprehensive process of testing before it is ready to attempt the circumnavigation of the world.
Burt Rutan, commented:
“We have completed two very successful flight tests, one to open the envelope for low altitude and one for medium altitude. The conditions cleared include speeds from stall to above the world flight envelope and altitudes up to 30,000 feet. The pressurization system, avionics and landing gear system are working well. We are in the process of installing some modifications to the fuel transfer system, and are working some improvements to the main gear doors. The next flights will open the envelope above 30,000 feet, will be at heavier weights and will include autopilot development.”
The initial phase of testing is being conducted by Scaled’s test pilots and will test out all the crucial elements of performance before Steve Fossett takes over testing. For the world record attempt the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer will be required to fly for over 23,000 miles which will take between sixty and seventy hours. The record attempt will test the aircraft and pilot to their limits.
The project team have also been progressing on a number of other parts of the record attempt including the launch airport, fine-tuning of the route and location of mission control. These details will be announced in the coming weeks.
The record attempt is due to take off from an as yet unchosen central US location and is scheduled to take place from October this year.
A dedicated web site - www.virginatlanticglobalflyer.com - will provide details of the project. It will give updates on its progress over the coming months and will provide an unprecedented level of live coverage of the record attempt during the flight itself. The site is being designed and managed by Conchango and hosted by Energis.