Published January 13, 2015
Aviation's adventuresome duo of Steve Fossett (search) and Sir Richard Branson announced plans Thursday for another world record attempt in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, this time for longest flight.
In March, Fossett became the first person to fly nonstop and without refueling around the globe, taking off and landing in Salina.
Now he wants to set a distance record. The current plan is to fly from Kansas, circumnavigate the globe and land near London, a trek of 29,000 miles.
Another possible launch site is one of NASA's runways at the Kennedy Space Center (search) in Florida. Fossett said a final decision will be made later this year.
If successful, the flight would break the current aircraft record of 24,987 miles, set by the Voyager aircraft in 1996 and the balloon record of 25,361 miles set by the Breitling Orbiter 3 (search) in 1999.
Fossett, 60, announced his intentions at the annual Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis. He flew the GlobalFlyer to the event from Salina, where it has been stored since completing its record-setting flight.
Fossett already holds world records in five pursuits -- in balloons, sailboats, gliders, airships and powered aircraft.
"This length of flight will be at the very limit of the airplane. It will be a stretch of my personal endurance, as well," Fossett said in a telephone interview from Wisconsin.
The flight is tentatively scheduled for February, when winter conditions in the northern hemisphere could produce average tail winds of 83 mph.
Fossett's team is eyeing the central Kansas location because of its 12,300-foot runway. The aircraft needs about 8,000 feet for takeoff because of the excessive fuel load needed for the endurance flight.
The attempt by Fossett would take about 90 hours. The March flight, financed by Branson, took 67 hours, and Fossett took off and landed in Salina.
Fossett said he got about one hour of sleep during that flight by taking short naps, but he expects to be able to get more rest on the next flight. And, like the first flight, he will dine on 200-calorie diet milkshakes.
"Both pilot and plane will be tested well beyond any previous flight in history, and if successful will set a record that I suspect will never be exceeded," Branson said.
GlobalFlyer is a single-engine, composite jet aircraft designed by Burt Rutan.
Rutan also designed the Virgin Atlantic SpaceShipOne, which won the $10 million X Prize after flying to the edge of space twice in five days.
That project also is financed by Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, who plans to begin offering commercial space flight in the next few years.