Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer pilot Steve Fossett succeeded in his bid to break the endurance record for powered flight, despite landing 45min earlier than planned.

GlobalFlyer landing W445
© Chris Parsons

He had to divert to Hurn airport, in the southern UK city of Bournemouth, 45min early before he would have touched down at his original destination, Manston Kent international airport, due to electrical failure. After about 75h in flight, following his 07:22 local time take off from NASA’s John F Kennedy Space Center Space Shuttle runway on 8 February, Fossett was 40km (25miles) west of London Heathrow airport.

Suffering electrical problems he declared a Mayday and GlobalFlyer chief engineer Jon Karkow advised Fossett via satellite phone to shut down some aircraft systems. “There were many obstacles to overcome form the moment I took off from Kennedy Space Center, from the challenging take-off, difficult cockpit conditions for the early part of the flight, severe turbulence over India and constant concerns over the weakness of the jet streams,” says Fossett.

Sir Richard Branson was in a chase plane flying in formation with GlobalFlyer when the Mayday call came. Mission control concluded that Kent international airport was too far for Fossett and Hurn was chosen as the alternative.
Fossett had reached his world record non-stop flight goal when he flew over the last of five necessary waypoints, above Shannon, Ireland.

Landing at Hurn Fossett had travelled 41,470km in 76h45mins. With his cockpit window bubble covered in ice he had to land with limited visibility and the hard landing burst two tyres.


In exclusive raw footage, Flight International technology reporter Rob Coppinger shares his initial impressions as the press pack on the Virgin Atlantic Ultimate Flight press trip walks towards the GlobalFlyer before its launch.
To view the video: click here for the Windows Media Video file of the GlobalFlyer unveiling
or download in Apple QuickTime format to view the GlobalFlyer unveiling video clip on your iPod

Read Rob Coppinger's two part blog from the project's launch

Source: Flight International