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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 February 2006, 00:55 GMT
Fossett's flight set for Tuesday
By Irene Klotz
Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Fossett (R) and Richard Branson (L)
Once again, Fossett (R) flies with the support of the Virgin boss, Richard Branson (L)
It will be an early night and no parties for endurance pilot Steve Fossett, who plans to take off shortly after dawn on Tuesday for what he hopes will be three days of non-stop flying.

If all goes as planned, Fossett's borrowed plane, the Virgin Atlantic Airways-owned GlobalFlyer, will wing its way into the record books for the longest non-stop flight in history.

Unlike the current record holders, Fossett will be going at it alone.

The 61-year-old adventurer, who already holds dozens of endurance, piloting and sporting records, downplayed his chance of success during a preflight press conference on Monday in Florida, where he plans to begin what is being billed as "the ultimate flight".

I do it as a matter of personal satisfaction, to achieve something that is difficult and that stretches my ability to do it
Steve Fossett
"I'm not confident of success because of what I'm trying to do," Fossett said. "I'm trying to fly the airplane to its fullest capability of distance and so I'm stretching the limits of the airplane."

Fossett last year flew GlobalFlyer around the world, without refuelling, becoming the first solo pilot in history to do so.

But the plane leaked more than 3,000lbs (1,400kg) of fuel during the climb to altitude. After landing, Fossett wondered how much farther the plane could have flown if it had not had the leak.

"We calculate that I will be able to complete the flight and have a success but it will be very close," Fossett said.

"I'll be worried until we can really see the calculations and see the winds and see that I am going to make it to England."

After taking off from the Kennedy Space Center's 15,000-ft-long (4,600m) shuttle runway, Fossett plans to fly over the Atlantic, across Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, China, Japan, the Pacific Ocean, Mexico, the United States and back over the Atlantic before landing at Kent International Airport on Friday.

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
The biggest risk of the flight will be at takeoff.

All but 3,500lbs (1,600kg) of GlobalFlyer's 22,066lbs (10,001kg) takeoff weight is fuel.

Fossett will need the full length of the shuttle's runway to build up enough speed to lift off.

Then, Fossett must weather any wind gusts until he reaches his cruising altitude of 45,000ft (14,000m).

At that altitude, Fossett will be able to take advantage of the strong naturally occurring jetstream, which flows west-to-east over the Northern Hemisphere.

Once safely aloft, Fossett's biggest worries will be an engine problem or running out of fuel.

Fossett also faces sleep deprivation. An alarm system aboard the plane will allow Fossett to take cat naps of up to five minutes in duration.

There will be no refuge in fine dining, either. Fossett plans a diet of liquid milkshakes.

He began the regime three days ago, in the hope of eliminating the need to defecate, but he will have bags aboard if he needs them and there is a bottle in which to urinate.

None of that matters much to Fossett. "I do it as a matter of personal satisfaction," he said, "to achieve something that is difficult and that stretches my ability to do it.

"Also, enjoy it," he added. "I've never lost interest in the feeling of getting to the top of a mountain or achieving a world record. For that reason I will continue to pursue world records for an indefinite amount of time."

Map of GlobalFlyer's route (BBC)

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