||Fossett logs longest nonstop flight ever
MANSTON, England -- 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 Global Flyer at Bournemouth International Airport in southern England instead of at a military airstrip in nearby Manston, 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 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 Saturday at his scheduled finishing point -- Kent International Airport -- on a private jet with Richard Branson, billionaire owner of Virgin Atlantic, which sponsored Fossett's record bid. He was greeted there by his wife, Peggy, and applause from a crowd.
2 tires burst on landing
Fossett said he was relieved after 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.
The episode was one of several that nearly doomed his voyage.
During takeoff Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center, his plane leaked fuel and he nearly ran out of runway.
Severe turbulence over India ''almost broke the plane apart,'' he said, forcing him to strap on a parachute for fear of having to eject.
Instead, his flight team altered his projected route. They had him cross Florida, where he began his journey Wednesday, and take a southerly path on the flight's last leg to take advantage of better winds.
The plane's ventilation system also malfunctioned midway through the trip, causing temperatures in the 7-foot cockpit to rise to as much as 130 degrees. Fossett was forced to drink a large part of his water supply earlier than planned because of the heat, his flight team said.
''He burst two tires on landing and the poor Global Flyer had to be dragged off the runway,'' said Steve Ridgway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic. AP
[url=http://www.virginatlanticglobalflyer.com]Global Flyer website[/url]