Billionaire pilot Steve Fosset took off yesterday at 06:38 from Salina airport, Kansas, at the start of his latest solo record attempt with the Virgin Atlatic GlobalFlyer long endurance aircraft.
The latest bid to beat the absolute closed circuit distance record held by Dick Rutan was organised after a re-reading of the international rules proved his February attempt to be invalid.
The closed circuit is a circumnavigational route with the start and finish points being identical. Fosset's February Ultimate Flight distance record, in which he travelled 41,467km (22,415nm) does not qualify as an absolute distance record as it took off from Kennedy Space Center outside Orlando, Florida but landed at Bournemouth, UK.
This attempt will zig-zag around additional waypoints to increase the distance while landing back at the start point. On the flight, Fosset is using the Blue Sky Network satellite-based flight tracking, voice, mapping and telemetry systems to ensure meeting the waypoints.
|Above: The GlobalFlyer being prepared for flight at Salina airport, Kansas ahead of take-off at 06:38 yesterday.|
The latest attempt aims to land back at Salina, which lies close to the geographic centre of continental USA and cover a distance of 40,615km. The absolute closed circuit distance record follows the rules defined by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), which has been held since 1986 by Rutan and Jeanna Yeager flying Global Flyer's predecessor, the twin-engined 'Voyager'.
The flight is expected to last 75-80h and was launched at short notice due to ideal weather conditions on its planned route over Newfoundland, western Europe, Africa, India, China, Japan and California.
The single-engined GlobalFlyer is set to be retired and donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC following this attempt. This record attempt has been largely organised by aeronautical students at Kansas State University at Salina.
JUSTIN WASTNAGE / LONDON