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Last Updated: Friday, 10 February 2006, 11:39 GMT
Halfway point passed by Fossett
Virgin GlobalFlyer (Getty/AFP)
GlobalFlyer will land in Kent, UK, if the flight goes to plan
Steve Fossett has passed the halfway point of his solo bid to make the longest non-stop flight in history.

The US aviator hit midway at 0014 GMT Friday, 36 hours and 47 minutes into his flight, as he flew over Japan and headed east towards the Pacific.

The flight, if successful, will cover a record 41,978km (26,084 miles).

After circling the globe and crossing the Atlantic twice, Fossett should finally land in Kent, UK, less than 80 hours after taking off.

Presently pushing across the Pacific, Virgin GlobalFlyer should reach landfall over Mexico at approximately 1800 GMT Friday.

'Fantastic views'

Fuel loss during take-off, high cabin temperatures and severe turbulence over India have so far plagued his flight.

Fossett said he felt relieved to have made it halfway.

I have always suspected that Steve was half-human-half-android
Sir Richard Branson

"It's great to get to the halfway point and I am relieved that the turbulence has now calmed down and I can concentrate on the flight," he commented.

"In fact, I have just seen some fantastic views of Mount Fuji as I was travelling over Japan, which has been one of the most enjoyable moments of the flight so far."

Public interest in the challenge has been huge: its dedicated website has received over 15 million hits in the 24 hours after take-off.

If the mission succeeds, Fossett will smash the record set in 1986 by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager.

They covered 40,212km (24,987 miles) during a non-stop, non-refuelled flight in the Voyager aircraft.

'Huge achievement'

Sixty-one-year-old Fossett is no stranger to adventure and has set 109 records around the world.

Last year the former stockbroker became the first person to fly solo non-stop around the world without refuelling, a feat accomplished in 67 hours and one minute.

Friend and fellow adventurer Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin empire, said: "This is a huge achievement, especially under the circumstances.

"The conditions Steve has been through have been extreme to say the least, coping with severe turbulence, extreme heat and no sleep," he added.

"I have always suspected that Steve was half-human-half-android and after what he's been through, I believe I may be right! We will have to get his DNA tested when he gets back!"

Map of GlobalFlyer's route (BBC)

VIRGIN ATLANTIC GLOBAL FLYER - LONG-DISTANCE JET PLANE
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




SEE ALSO:
Fossett deals with fuel worries
09 Feb 06 |  Science/Nature
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
In pictures: Fossett's record flight
03 Mar 05 |  In Pictures
Profile: Steve Fossett
03 Mar 05 |  Americas


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