By Irene Klotz
Cape Canaveral, Florida
Its damaged wing repaired, the record-setting ultra-light GlobalFlyer aircraft swooped through the skies over Kennedy Space Center on Thursday and settled on to a borrowed space shuttle runway.
It was the last stop before millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett takes to the air again to attempt another world record.
Fossett plans to depart later this month or in February on what he hopes will be the longest non-stop ride in an aircraft, eclipsing a record set in 1986 by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager.
Fossett already topped Rutan and Yeager's around-the-world tour by making the trip last year flying solo.
This year, he plans to not only circle the globe, but cross the Atlantic Ocean a second time before touching down, some 80 hours and 41,800-plus km (26,000-plus miles) later, at the Kent International Airport, outside of London.
"For me, it's a challenge," Fossett told the BBC News website. "I want to do something that hasn't been done before, or at least to do it farther than anyone has done before."
Fossett flew the GlobalFlyer, which is owned by Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways, to Florida from Salina, Kansas, where the plane has been since its last record flight.
Fossett originally planned to arrive in Florida earlier in the month, but the plane's wing was damaged when it hit a refuelling truck.
The GlobalFlyer team took advantage of Thursday's four-and-a-half-hour flight to test the repair and other aircraft systems. Fossett said there were still some technical issues to be resolved, including possibly a recurrence of the problem that nearly ended last year's record bid.
GlobalFlyer needs to be pushed to full capability, says Fossett
As GlobalFlyer climbed to its 14km (45,000ft) altitude on 28 February 2005, the plane lost more than 1,360kg (3,000lbs) of fuel, raising concerns that Fossett would have to end the flight short of his mark.
Fuel leaks, evidently, remain a problem. "We're still struggling with this," Fossett told reporters gathered at the shuttle runway.
While the point of GlobalFlyer's next goal is to set a new record, Fossett said he did not want to see the plane retired before it had reached its limits.
"Last year, I had a wonderful flight - it was very satisfying, but it left one thing remaining to do. During that flight, this plane... did not fly to its capability.
"I can tell you that the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has requested this plane, and I want it to go in the Smithsonian. But there is this challenge left to do: to fly the aircraft to its capability," he said.
Fosset said it most likely would be two to three weeks before GlobalFlyer was ready for its next adventure.
The actual day of lift-off will be determined by the weather at the space centre and conditions in the high-altitude jet stream where GlobalFlyer soars.
The plane must depart before the end of February while cool Florida temperatures will help ensure that the air is dense enough for GlobalFlyer and its heavy load of fuel to leave the ground.
With the shuttle fleet scheduled to be retired in less than five years, the US space agency (Nasa) has been looking for commercial ventures to use the shuttle runway and other facilities.
"I really like the association with Nasa," said Fossett "This is where the great things in aerospace start from."