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HomeAsia-PacificAround the world in 80 hours – Virgin Atlantic to launch the first solo non-stop aircraft to circumnavigate the earth

Around the world in 80 hours – Virgin Atlantic to launch the first solo non-stop aircraft to circumnavigate the earth

Virgin Atlantic Airways announced that it is to launch the first solo piloted aircraft to fly non-stop around the world….

Virgin Atlantic Airways announced that it is to launch the first solo piloted aircraft to fly non-stop around the world. The aircraft will be piloted either by Steve Fossett, Richard Branson’s partner in his last global ballooning record attempt, or Richard. Steve is lead pilot with Richard as reserve pilot. Both Steve and Richard are multiple world record holders and between them [probably] hold more records than any other pair of adventurers. Both pilots are undertaking a rigorous training regime to prepare them for the physical and technical challenges of flying solo round the world.

The record attempt is due to take off and return from a central US location and is scheduled to take place next year. It is hoped the attempt will be successfully completed within 80 hours.

The aircraft, designed by aviation legend Burt Rutan, is being built in the Mojave Desert by Scaled Composites. It is a single pilot, single engine turbofan aircraft designed for non-stop global circumnavigation. The structure of the plane is entirely made from composite material and will be ultra light. The aircraft will fly up to 52,000ft (17,000 metres) and travel between 19,000 and 25,000 miles (between 32,000 and 40,000 km) at speeds in excess of 250 knots (285 mph, 440 kph). The engine is being produced by Williams Engines and recalibrated for the special requirements of the aircraft.

Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commented: “Virgin Atlantic is delighted to launch this historic, exciting and environmentally important project. Flying an aircraft solo around the world without stopping or refuelling is the last great aviation record left inside the Earth’s atmosphere.

“At a time when BA is retiring the greatest achievement in aviation of the last century it is fitting that Virgin Atlantic should unveil a plane which is designed to make the first great aviation achievement of this century. Like Concorde, the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer will be a sleek and slim aircraft but will be super fuel efficient. The manufacturers of the plane and the engine will generate unique data on improving future aircraft efficiency which will help develop a new generation of more fuel efficient commercial aircraft.”

Steve Fossett, pilot, commented: “The First Solo NonStop is a grand endeavour. Flying around the world has always been a great romance and adventure. To do it first by airplane alone and non-stop will be very special. If successful I hope to earn a place in aviation history in the legacy of Wiley Post who was first to fly round the world solo. In July, 1933 Post made it around with eleven stops and in under 8 days. I hope to make it with no stops and in under 80 hours.

“This will require all of my abilities as a pilot, it will test my endurance, and it will demonstrate the finest in lightweight aircraft construction and improvements in jet engine fuel efficiency that have never before been achieved. I am supported by a team and the technology to pull it off.”

Sir Richard Branson, reserve pilot, added: “With this attempt Virgin Atlantic is going back to its roots. Back in the 80’s when we launched Virgin Atlantic we had a limited marketing budget and by attempting (and setting!) a number of marine and aviation records we put Virgin Atlantic firmly on the map. This time round we also benefit from Steve Fossett’s high profile, particularly in the US where he is recognised as the king of record breakers.

“A number of Virgin Atlantic staff will also be playing key roles in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer project. I am pleased to confirm that Kevin Stass, Virgin Atlantic’s Route Planning Manager, will be the Mission Control Director for the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer. He will be supported by Ian Craft, from our US office in mission control and Alex Tai, one of Virgin Atlantic’s Captains, will pilot the chase plane and will also support the project on a number of issues.”

The aircraft livery has been created by Start Design, and is a modification of Virgin Atlantic`s own livery adapted to suit Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer`s striking aerodynamic design.

A dedicated web site – – will provide details of the project. It will give updates on its progress over the coming months and will provide an unprecedented level of live coverage of the record attempt during the flight itself. The site is being designed and managed by Conchango and hosted by Energis.

Throughout 2003 Virgin Atlantic has commemorated the centenary of flight through a series of initiatives including Richard Branson flying a working replica of the Cayley Flyer (the aircraft which launched manned flight in 1853) and the airline’s sponsorship of the Bognor Birdman.

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Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.