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Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyerA year after making history with the first solo nonstop flight around the world, pilot Steve Fossett has stretched his wings again.
The veteran aviator and adventurer completed the longest nonstop flight in aviation history in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer Saturday and made a dramatic emergency landing at the Bournemouth International Airport, about 100 miles outside of London.
He surpassed his goal of covering 26,160 miles in approximately 80 hours. (The previous record was 25,361 miles, set in 1999 by the Breitling Orbiter balloon. By comparison, Fossett's round-the-world flight in March 2005 covered just less than 23,000 miles.)
The ultralight GlobalFlyer lifted off Wednesday morning from the 15,000-foot space shuttle landing runway at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The craft typically traveled at an altitude of approximately 45,000 feet and at speeds above 200 knots.
GlobalFlyer mission controlAt mission control for the flight, in Crawley, England, the GlobalFlyer team kept track of Fossett's flight status. The screen here shows the plane on Thursday passing over the Saudi Arabian peninsula. More details on the flight can be found on the GlobalFlyer site.
For the record: The aircraft is 44 feet long and has a wingspan of 114 feet. Empty, it weighs 3,350 pounds; filling up the 13 fuel tanks increases the weight dramatically, to approximately 22,000 pounds.
Fossett is no stranger to ambitious aeronautical feats. Besides last year's nonstop solo circumnavigation in the GlobalFlyer craft, he was the first person to fly alone around the world in a balloon--succeeding in 2002 on his sixth attempt.