With the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer back in the hangar, the team assembled in Salina for the final time when Steve Fossett received official certification of his world record.
Presented at the end of last week with the world record for the first non-stop solo circumnavigation around the world, David Hawksett from the Guinness World Records spoke about Steve’s “courage, endurance and strength of will” before presenting him with a certificate. He also said Steve has shown the world what can be done when people work together, praising the Mission Control team and all the people who helped make the event possible.
Steve said: “I’m delighted that it turned out, that I got back here and that it was successful.” He added, that despite being very tired, he “could have lasted out another day in terms of sleep and concentration.”
Steve left Salina at 18:47:10 local time, flew around the world in 67 hours, 1 minute and 46 seconds, and arrived back at 13:48:56. He traveled 19,880 nautical miles which was 17 miles over the length needed to break the record.
Glad to have had the opportunity to combine his endurance experience with his pilot experience, Steve really enjoyed the flight and said that “maybe a person has to be a pilot to appreciate this, but a pilot loves to fly.”
He said that it was a welcomed challenge to fly such a sophisticated, experimental plane, but also said that more time could be spent working on the fuel system because that was a “serious shortcoming”.
The loss of fuel became a main concern during Steve’s flight, up to the point that alternative options were being looked into in case Steve had to land in Hawaii or California.
Much debate has occurred as to why the fuel levels were depleted, although at present, tests are still ongoing to determine exactly what happened.
Jon Karkow from Scaled Composites said, “the final accounting for fuel has yet to be done” but confirmed that Steve returned with 1515lbs of fuel remaining. In total Steve lost 2600lbs, but because he lost the fuel early on in the flight, the plane was lighter which meant that he actually needed to use less fuel as the flight went on.
However Steve said that the “plane was better prepared and worked better than I anticipated” and Jon said that “there are no major changes that we’d have to make if we did it all over again.”
Sir Richard Branson said that Jon, Steve and Scaled Composites “succeeded beyond most people’s wildest dreams.”
Although Steve’s record breaking flight in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer is over, the plane will still make a few more journeys, including the return flight to the Scaled Composites base in Mojave.
Steve said: “It is inspiring that there were so many people interested in this project” and hopes it will inspire other people to follow their aspirations.
The Global Flyer frenzy, which led to thousands of people watching the take-off and landing, is far from over though. With talk of a small museum being constructed in Salina to commemorate the event, Salina residents and visitors will still be able to enjoy the experience. And with Steve Fossett’s autobiography not far away, it looks like the rest of the world will have the opportunity too.
By Amy Abrahams