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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 March, 2005, 21:00 GMT
Fossett sets solo flight record

Steve Fossett has become the first person to fly a plane solo, non-stop around the globe without refuelling.

He completed his mission despite a fuel shortage, landing the Virgin GlobalFlyer at 1950 GMT in Salina, Kansas, where he took off on Tuesday.

The US millionaire had considered aborting the trip and landing in Hawaii, but he decided to press on because of favourable tail winds.

"What a day," he said as he emerged from the plane after a 67-hour journey.

"It's something I wanted to do for a long time," he told a rapturous crowd who lined the runway. "I'm a really lucky guy."

Mr Fossett has notched up more than 100 world records in five different fields of endeavour. In 2002, he became the first man to fly round the world in a balloon single-handed.

'Let's go for it'

To achieve his latest feat, the pilot flew across the Atlantic, North Africa, Asia and the Pacific, before returning to the US.

Somehow, I think I'll sleep tonight
Steve Fossett

He lived on chocolate milkshakes and slept for only a few minutes at a time.

"Right now I'm not sleepy," he told reporters after landing. "Somehow, I think I'll sleep tonight," he added.

Mr Fossett had faced a number of technical challenges on his historic journey.

In the first few hours of the flight, the plane's navigation system failed, leaving him flying blind. Fortunately, the system came back up before he flew out over the Atlantic Ocean.

On Wednesday, there was speculation the adventurer might have to abandon his first attempt at a jet-propelled circumnavigation because of an unexplained loss of fuel.

Checks had revealed the vehicle was missing 1,200kg (2,600lbs) of fuel and mission controllers were at a loss to explain the situation.

Fossett and Branson celebrate (AP)
Fossett and his sponsor, Virgin's Sir Richard Branson celebrate
But later, project manager Paul Moore said wind conditions and the fuel situation had improved between Japan and Hawaii, prompting Mr Fossett to tell mission control: "Let's go for it."

The pioneering aircraft - the world's most efficient jet plane - was designed by aviation legend Burt Rutan, who also designed the SpaceShipOne rocket plane.

Built by Rutan's Scaled Composites company, GlobalFlyer is a single-pilot, single-engine turbofan aircraft.

Scaled used computer aided aerodynamics to design the aircraft.

The structure of the plane is entirely made from composite material and is ultra-light, enabling the vehicle to fly 75% further than the range record for jet-powered planes.

Rutan was also behind Voyager, a propeller-driven plane in which his brother, Dick, and Jeana Yeager flew around the world without stopping or re-fuelling in 1986.

Their nine-day circumnavigation covered 42,420km (26,366 miles).

Diagram of GlobalFlyer
(1) Fuel tanks - Gross weight is 10 tonnes; empty weight is 1.5t
(2) Engine - Williams FJ44-3 ATW (10,200 Newtons of thrust)
(3) Cockpit - Pressurised and large enough for pilot to lie down
Length - 11.7m; Height - 3.6m; Wingspan - 35m
Speed - in excess of 460km/h; 290mph; 250 knots

Steve Fossett addresses supporters after his flight

Profile: Steve Fossett
03 Mar 05 |  Americas
In pictures: Fossett's record flight
03 Mar 05 |  In Pictures
Fossett eyes last major jet mark
25 Feb 05 |  Science/Nature
Fossett ready for non-stop tour
01 Feb 05 |  Science/Nature
Kansas start for Virgin attempt
06 Dec 04 |  Science/Nature
SpaceShipOne rockets to success
04 Oct 04 |  Science/Nature
Burt Rutan: Aviation pioneer
04 Oct 04 |  Science/Nature


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