Here is the breakdown on Steve Fossett's record-setting Ultimate
Flight, which came to a stressful-yet-successful
end Saturday when the Virgin Atlantic Globalflyer
landed in Bournemouth, England.
TOTAL MILES FLOWN: 26,389.3, breaking the
record of 24,987 miles set in 1986 by Rutan's Voyager aircraft. The
distance is also just over 1,000 miles more than the 25,361 miles
balloonists Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard flew on their
round-the-world flight in 1999.
Although he fell short of his 27,000 mile goal, Fossett can
still boast of having the "Ultimate Flight."
TOTAL TIME IN THE
AIR: 76 hours, 45 minutes
TOTAL FUEL CAPACITY OF THE GLOBALFLYER: Over
FUEL LEFT ONBOARD AT TIME OF LANDING:
Approximately 200 lbs. Eep.
NAIL BITING MOMENTS: At least three, one for
each primary phase of the flight.
The stress caused by two bird strikes and fuel loss on
takeoff was compounded by excessive overheating in the cabin as
Fossett climbed to altitude after liftoff Wednesday (below), which
forced Fossett to drink much of his approximately three-gallon
supply of water much earlier than planned. After peaking at 130
degrees Fahrenheit, things only cooled down to below 100 degrees in
the cabin after enough fuel had burned off to allow Fossett to
throttle back the engine.
Later, severe turbulence caused some very stressful moments over
India, as Fossett watched the GlobalFlyer's thin wings flex
excessively in the strong air currents. Smartly, Fossett donned his
oxygen mask and parachute in case of a structural failure...
something he didn't mention to controllers until hours later, by
which time things had settled down.
Lastly, of course, there was the matter that forced Fossett to
land in Bournemouth Saturday morning, instead of travelling further
on to Kent International. While on approach to Kent, the
GlobalFlyer's generator failed -- which meant a total
electrical breakdown. Fossett was then forced to make an emergency
Mayday call to London ATC, where controllers gave Fossett what
the team describes as "a short window" to land.
"If we didn’t get him down in fifteen minutes, he would
have had to have ditched the plane," said Virgin Atlantic CEO Steve
Heavy icing on the aircraft's windscreen also meant Steve could
hardly see outside at all during landing.
NUMBER OF TIRES PUT ON FOSSETT'S BILL: Two.
Both mainwheel tires burst on the GlobalFlyer during
landing. Project founder Sir Richard Branson will likely have them
added to his tab, though.
WHADDYA MEAN, YOU WANT ME TO GET ON ANOTHER %^$&
PLANE? Okay, so this isn't a number... but it speaks to
Fossett's (and Richard Branson's) sense of showmanship that...
after Fossett received a brief medical checkup at Bournemouth...
both men boarded Branson's private jet for the hop over to Kent, to
greet the scores of eager attendees who had waited to greet the
WANNA BUY A WATCH? As he did after Fossett's
record-breaking flight-around-the-world last year, Branson will
reportedly offer the Breitling wristwatch he 'lended' Fossett for
the Ultimate Flight for sale on eBay, with the proceeds going to
charity. The RTW watch brought over $650,000, and the Ultimate...
watch... will likely at least match that. For the money (list price
$10,000) the watch includes an emergency locator beacon.