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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 February 2006, 12:28 GMT
Fossett sets off on record bid
Virgin GlobalFlyer takes off from Cape Canaveral, 8 February. Image: AFP/Getty Images

US aviator Steve Fossett has taken off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in an attempt to make the longest non-stop flight in his Virgin GlobalFlyer plane.

His journey will take him around the world once and across the Atlantic twice, landing in Kent, UK.

If the 61-year-old makes it, he will eclipse a record set by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager in 1986.

On Tuesday, the three-day non-stop trip around the world was postponed because of a fuel leak and unfavourable winds.

Fossett began his trip from Nasa's Kennedy Space Center at about 1220 GMT (0720 local time), and plans to cover 41,978km (26,084 miles) in 80 hours.

Solo record

The aviator already holds the record for flying solo around the globe in a balloon and for being the first person to circle the globe solo in a plane without stopping or refuelling.

Steve Fossett makes final preparations before take-off from Cape Canaveral. Image: Getty Images
Mr Fossett circled the globe solo in GlobalFlyer last March
That flight, in March 2005, was also in GlobalFlyer and lasted 67 hours. It was also hampered by a different problem of fuel leaking from the aircraft.

He will aim to break by 1,126 km (700 miles) the non-stop distance record set in 1986 by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager in a nine-day flight.

Fossett has told reporters that it remains to be seen whether the fuel venting problem experienced by the plane will reoccur on this flight.

Power naps

After taking off from Florida, he will fly over the Atlantic, cross Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, China, Japan, the Pacific Ocean, Mexico, and the United States and then back over the Atlantic before landing at Kent International Airport outside London.

GlobalFlyer, a glider-like, graphite aircraft with a 35m (114ft) wing span, lifted off from a runway at Kennedy Space Center normally reserved for space shuttle landings.

It is the first experimental plane built by the private sector to take off from Cape Canaveral.

During his 80 hours in the air, Fossett will take power naps no longer than five minutes each and drink a steady diet of nutritional milkshakes.

His plane is equipped with a parachute pack holding a one-man raft and a satellite rescue beacon, just in case.

Map of GlobalFlyer's route (BBC)

Fuel leak grounds Steve Fossett
07 Feb 06 |  Science/Nature
Aviator grounded by Chinese holiday
30 Jan 06 |  Science/Nature
Fossett set for next record bid
13 Jan 06 |  Science/Nature
Fossett sets solo flight record
03 Mar 05 |  Science/Nature
In pictures: Fossett's record flight
03 Mar 05 |  In Pictures
Profile: Steve Fossett
03 Mar 05 |  Americas

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