Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer Mission Control announced that the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer has overcome its first major challenge when it successfully took off for its round-the-world record attempt from Salina Airport, Kansas at 18:47:10 CST (00:47:10 UTC). The radical aircraft is piloted by Steve Fossett, legendary aviator, sailor and record breaker, who is attempting the first solo non-stop flight around the world. It is hoped the record attempt will be successfully completed within 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 22,100lbs - fuel accounts for 18,100lbs of this to enable the aircraft to circumnavigate the globe non-stop.
Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commenting from Mission Control:
“I was standing next to Steve’s wife on the runway which was obviously very emotional. This stage without doubt was the most dangerous as it was the first time Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer had taken off with a full fuel tank - a stunning technical achievement. It was wonderful to see it heading off on its voyage from Salina, Kansas - so beautifully, so gracefully. Next stop Salina!
“Steve holds many important world aviation records and I wish him the very best of luck in succeeding with this one - it is truly the last great aviation record left to achieve!”
Mission Control is based at Salina at Kansas State University - Salina, where the progress of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer is now being monitored for the duration of the attempt. Mission Control Director Kevin Stass will be in constant communication with pilot Steve Fossett throughout flight.
Kevin Stass, Mission Control Director, commented:
“This aircraft had never taken off with such a high fuel load so this was one of the most dangerous challenges of the record attempt. Everyone at Mission Control is really pleased that Virgin Atlantic Globalflyer has successfully accomplished take off from Salina Airport on its journey around the world which will cover almost 20,000nms and span four continents. ”
Built by Scaled Composites, 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 45,000ft 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.