Around the World in 80 Hours with Virgin

PRNewswire NORWALK, Conn. Oct. 23 :

—The world`s most efficient jet plane now being built in the Mojave
desert—Unique composite construction will result in the highest fuel to
weight ratio in aviation history—Fossett or Branson to pilot aircraft
—Aircraft to be called Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer.
Virgin Atlantic Airways announced today that it is to launch the first
solo piloted aircraft to fly non-stop around the world. The aircraft will
be piloted either by Steve Fossett, Richard Branson`s partner in his last
global ballooning record attempt, or Richard. Steve is lead pilot with
Richard first Reserve Pilot. Both Steve and Richard are multiple world
record holders and between them [probably] hold more records than any
other pair of adventurers. Both pilots are undertaking a rigorous training
regime to prepare them for the physical and technical challenges of flying
solo round the world.

The record attempt is due to take off and return from a central US
location and is scheduled to take place next year. It is hoped the attempt
will be successfully completed within 80 hours.

The aircraft designed by Burt Rutan, is being built in the Mojave Desert
by Scaled Composites. It is a single pilot, single engine turbofan
aircraft designed for non-stop global circumnavigation. The structure of
the plane is entirely made from composite material and will be ultra
light. The aircraft will fly up to 52,000ft (17,000 metres) and travel
between 19,000 and 25,000 miles (between 32,000 and 40,000 km) at speeds
in excess of 250 knots (285 mph, 440 kph). The engine is being produced by
Williams Engines and recalibrated for the special requirements of the

Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commented:


“Virgin Atlantic is delighted to launch this historic, exciting and
environmentally important project. Flying an aircraft solo around the world without stopping or refuelling is the last great aviation record
left inside the Earth`s atmosphere.

“At a time when BA is retiring the greatest achievement in aviation of the last century it is fitting that Virgin Atlantic should unveil a plane
which is designed to make the first great aviation achievement of this
century. Like Concorde, the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer will be a sleek
and slim aircraft but will be super fuel efficient - burning less fuel
per mile than a Mini Cooper!

“The manufacturers of the plane and the engine will generate unique data
on improving future aircraft efficiency which will help develop a new
generation of more fuel efficient commercial aircraft.”

Steve Fossett, pilot, commented:

“The First Solo NonStop is a grand endeavour. Flying around the world has always been a great romance and adventure. To do it first by airplane
alone and non-stop will be very special. If successful I hope to earn a
place in aviation history in the legacy of Wiley Post who was first to fly round the world solo. In July, 1933 Post made it around with eleven
stops and in under 8 days. I hope to make it with no stops and in under
80 hours.
“This will require all of my abilities as a pilot, it will test my
endurance, and it will demonstrate the finest in lightweight aircraft
construction and improvements in jet engine fuel efficiency that have
never before been achieved. I am supported by a team and the technology
to pull it off.”
Sir Richard Branson, reserve pilot, added:

“With this attempt Virgin Atlantic is going back to its roots. Back in
the 80`s when we launched Virgin Atlantic we had a limited marketing
budget and by attempting (and setting!) a number of marine and aviation
records we put Virgin Atlantic firmly on the map. This time round we also
benefit from Steve Fossett`s high profile, particularly in the US where
he is recognised as the king of record breakers. “A number of Virgin Atlantic staff will also be playing key roles in the
Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer project. I am pleased to confirm that Kevin
Stass, Virgin Atlantic`s Route Planning Manager, will be the Mission
Control Director for the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. He will be
supported by Ian Craft, from our US office in mission control and Alex
Tai, one of Virgin Atlantic`s Captains, will pilot the chase plane and
will also support the project on a number of issues.”
A dedicated web site - - 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.
Throughout 2003 Virgin Atlantic has commemorated the centenary of flight
through a series of initiatives including Richard Branson flying a working
replica of the Cayley Flyer (the aircraft which launched manned flight in
1853) and the airline`s sponsorship of the Bognor Birdman.

Since it was founded in 1984, Virgin Atlantic Airways has become Britain`s
second largest carrier serving the world`s major cities. Now based at both
London`s Gatwick and Heathrow airports, it operates long haul services to
twenty-two destinations world-wide as far apart as Las Vegas and Shanghai.
Virgin Atlantic has enjoyed huge popularity, winning top business,
consumer and trade awards from around the world. The airline has pioneered
a range of innovations setting new standards of service, which its
competitors have subsequently sought to follow. Despite Virgin Atlantic`s
growth the service still remains customer driven with an emphasis on value
for money, quality, fun and innovation.