Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Monday, 30 January 2006

Aviator grounded by Chinese holiday

By Irene Klotz
Cape Canaveral, Florida

Steve Fossett at Cape Canaveral on 12 January, AP
Steve Fossett will make another record attempt
Adventurer pilot Steve Fossett's quest to begin the longest, non-stop flight in history is on hold.

It is not the weather or a technical problem that has grounded his plane, GlobalFlyer, at the Kennedy Space Center.

It is the Year of the Dog.

The Chinese New Year holidays coincide with the day Mr Fossett's team had scheduled for takeoff.

Airline Virgin Atlantic, which owns GlobalFlyer and is sponsoring the flight, was unable to obtain the necessary permits from China for Steve Fossett to fly over the country during its holiday period.

"The procedure is to get an overflight permit in advance for every country which I cross," Mr Fossett told the BBC News website.

The next opportunity for him to begin what he calls "the ultimate flight" is on 6 February.

He plans to head east over the Atlantic Ocean from Florida, circumnavigate the globe, then cross the Atlantic a second time before touching down at Kent International Airport, outside of London.

The journey should take about 80 hours and span more than 27,000 miles (43,000km).

1998/2002: Long-distance for solo ballooning
2001/2002: Duration for solo ballooning
2002: First solo round-the-world balloon flight
First balloon crossings of Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, South Atlantic, South Pacific, Indian Oceans
Seven fastest speed sailing titles
13 World Sailing Speed Record Council titles
2001: Fastest transatlantic sailing
2004: Fastest round-the-world sailing
Round-the-world endurance titles for medium airplanes
US trans-continental titles for non-military aircraft
2005: First solo, non-stop flight around the globe without refuelling
For official record-keeping purposes, Mr Fossett hopes to earn points amounting to 26,000 miles, which would break the 1986 record set by Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager aboard the Voyager aircraft.

The flight follows Steve Fossett's successful record-breaking trek last year, when he flew GlobalFlyer non-stop around the world.

A leak, however, drained the plane of vital fuel, spurring the 61-year-old pilot to take to the skies again and push the plane to its limits.

Here, Steve Fossett talks to the BBC News website about his latest adventure and what the future holds for the serial record breaker:

Q: Why is it important to you to do this?

I want to be a good aviator, so I'm trying to break some of the most important records in aviation. I do have some of the top records in four different areas of aviation - gliders, airships, aeroplanes and balloons. This would add to my credentials.

Q: Do you remember your first aeroplane ride?

I was aged five. We were moving from Long Beach, California, to Dallas, Texas, and we travelled by airplane. It was a very gracious style of travel back then.

Q: Did something click then? What planted the seed?

I didn't think very much about aviation, even though I got a pilot's licence back when I was in college. I didn't do much with it until I got interested in flying myself as a matter of transportation, so I needed to upgrade my pilot qualifications.

Also, I decided about the same time to make the first around-the-world balloon flight. It was really around 1993 when I got seriously interested in aviation.

Q: How do you prepare yourself for flight?

The preparation is in the planning of the trip. I am equally involved in evaluating the winds and weather for this flight. I'm also significantly involved in managing the airplane preparation. For me it's all preparation.

It's not so much training. I do like to exercise but (flying) is not a physical sport that requires intense training.

Q: Is there anything mentally or emotionally that you need to steel yourself for in this type of endeavour?

GlobalFlyer lands at Cape Canaveral, AFP
GlobalFlyer needs to be pushed to full capability, says Fossett

Well I don't believe that it's possible to train for sleep-deprivation, so the best I can do is have everything organised before the flight starts.

Beyond that, I have a lot of experience in doing things solo: a solo balloon around the world and last year's first solo (around-the-world flight) by airplane and some sailing solo records. I'm very comfortable being alone and having that self-reliance.

Q: What changes have been made on GlobalFlyer for this flight?

The most important change is the fuel venting system, because during my last flight there was a defect in the design so that the fuel leaked out during the climb to altitude.

I was very lucky to make it around the world on the first solo considering that I had lost one-and-a-half tons of fuel during the climb. So we hope that's corrected. The other changes have been mostly minor.

Q: When you're flying these long trips, what's it like in that little cabin? Is it quiet? Do you listen to music? Is it cold?

Even though it looks very small, I do, in fact, have elbow room. I'm able to shift my legs around and it's a comfortable seat.

I get a satisfaction each time I do set a new world record, so I actually want to do it... for my entire life
Steve Fossett
I don't do any reading, or listening to music or anything because there is always something to do, relative to flying the airplane.

I can review procedures; I have to make many adjustments in the throttle, so I'm pretty focused on the flight itself.

Q: What do you eat?

Diet milkshakes. I'm not on a diet, but it's nutritious food and it's liquid and just very convenient. You don't have to add water or anything.

Q: So, how many of those will you have aboard?

I'll take 16 with me. I think I did drink 10 of them during last year's flight.

Q: And that's it?

Well, there's a very small amount of snack food, but the diet is almost entirely the milkshakes.

Q: When you do a flight like this, do you put yourself in some expedition-frame of mind so that it's not boring to eat the same milkshakes and so that you don't mind sitting up or not being able to use a bathroom? How do you get yourself ready for that?

I just think constantly about the importance of what I'm doing and so the inconveniences of how I'm living are quite minor compared to what I think is the importance of what I'm doing.

I also have a long history of participation in endurance sports and I think the more you do of something, the less stressful it is.

I've been in a lot of situations where I haven't been able to sleep; I don't find it particularly stressful that I have to put up with it on this flight.

Q: What do you owe your tenacity to?

I've just learned over time what I like to do and what I want to do and so I'm very persistent in pursuing my goals.

Q: Do you have any sense of when you will have had enough of this?

A lot of people who have done high-profile achievements often have done just one and haven't aspired to do another one. I'm very different.

I thoroughly enjoy these pursuits. I get a satisfaction each time I do set a new world record, so I actually want to do it and will continue to do it for my entire life.

What I do may change just because we all get older. Aviation allows me to go on for a very long time. I'm 61 and there's no reason why I can't be a top pilot when I'm 75.

Map of GlobalFlyer's route (BBC)

Fossett set for next record bid
13 Jan 06 |  Science & Environment
In pictures: Fossett's record flight
03 Mar 05 |  In Pictures
Profile: Steve Fossett
03 Mar 05 |  Americas

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