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Archive for Sunday, February 12, 2006

American breaks world flight record

February 12, 2006

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— Adventurer Steve Fossett completed the longest nonstop flight in aviation history with an emergency landing Saturday, flying 26,389 miles in about 76 hours but stopping early because of mechanical problems.

Ground control said Fossett, 61, broke the airplane distance record of 24,987 miles while his lightweight experimental plane was flying over Shannon, Ireland.

Generator problems then forced him to land the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer at Bournemouth International Airport in southern England instead of at a military air strip in nearby Kent.

"I was really lucky to make it here today, there was a lot going on," Fossett told reporters after he landed. "The tension of the final part really took it out of me, but I will be fine in the morning."

The millionaire adventurer completed his nonstop journey around the globe - and then some - over 3 1/2 days despite losing about 750 pounds of fuel during his takeoff Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida because of a leak.

Fossett recounted the journey after he arrived later on Saturday at his scheduled finishing point - Kent International Airport - on a private jet alongside Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire owner of Virgin Atlantic, which sponsored Fossett's record bid. He was greeted there by his wife, Peggy, and rapturous applause from the assembled crowd.

Stepping onto the tarmac in his silver flight suit, Fossett said he was relieved after being forced to make the emergency landing.

He said he realized he was in trouble when he began his descent for Kent and a light came on indicating the plane's generator had failed, prompting him to put emergency procedures in place.

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