Piloting a plane older than two of the three crew on board, a Swiss team shattered Steve Fossett's around-the-world flight record by almost ten hours over the weekend, the first time the record has been set in this weight class with refueling stops. But the pilots didn't just have to negotiate the usual headwinds and bad weather -- their flight was nearly derailed by a volcanic eruption in Iceland that forced them to make an extra refueling stop and add an unexpected 12th leg to their journey.
The National Transportation and Safety Board has completed their investigation into what caused adventurer Steve Fossett's single-engine craft to crash on a leisure flight in 2007. Though his plane carried no data recorder, the NTSB has ruled that strong mountain downdrafts were the cause.
It has now been nine days since Steve Fossett took off from the Flying M Ranch in western Nevada ... and completely vanished. Searchers have found no trace of him. They and Fossett's family are clinging to the hope that he's alive and just waiting for rescue, though the absence of any signal from a transponder or his satellite-signaling Breitling watch remains troubling. On Sunday, search organizers made a plea for more helicopters and trained observers who could contribute to the painstaking search. In addition, the "Amazon Mechanical Turk" Internet-based satellite image analysis project began its own efforts to find Fossett.
The system was employed (unsuccessfully) earlier this year in a search for famed Silicon Valley computer scientists Jim Gray, who disappeared in a small sailing boat and has never been found. Although rescuers are beginning to doubt that Fossett is still alive, they have not given up hope of finding him and his plane. As with the Gray effort, civilians are being recruited in the search—which means you can help.
Register here, and you'll be shown sample images of aircraft similar to the Bellanca Super Decathlon that Fossett was flying and an actual recent satellite image to review. Each image is a relatively small section of land, so there are literally hundreds of thousands of images from the area in which they're searching—hence the need for public assistance sorting through them all. The instructions for how to report any potential "hits" are straightforward, and there are also instructions on how to do this through Google Earth using the properly updated satellite images. —Eric Adams
I talked to crazy rich-guy adventurer Steve Fossett on the phone today. For those of you who like to keep abreast of his world record-breaking exploits, heres the latest: Last week he set a new record in his Burt Rutan-designed Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer (check out the image of the plane below), zipping all the way around the world and then some for longest nonstop flight ever. Fossett flew 26,389.3 miles in 76 hours and 45 minutes. He took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 8, flew around the world and over the Atlantic again before landing in Bournemouth, England, on February 11. Apparently the flight was even more harrowing than his around-the-world stint last year: he had a dangerously long takeoff roll in Florida; hit two birds on his ascent; lost 750 pounds of fuel in a similar problem as last years (in which he lost nearly 3,000 pounds of fuel) saw his cockpit temperatures soar to 130 degrees because of a pressurization problem; and faced tailwinds over the Pacific that were slow enough to jeopardize the mission. But held up like a champ. Today he told me: I expected a lot fewer problems than we actually had. The airplane was proven substantially with the first solo flight last year, but this flight offered a lot of surprises. The takeoff was really close—I had to use both my hands and my full body force pulling back on the control stick to get it to lift off. And the landing was even worse: GlobalFlyer suffered a total electrical failure during his final descent, with only 200 pounds of fuel left. This caused a diversion from his intended airport, Kent, to Bournemouth, where, with ice forming on his windshield that reduced his visibility to nearly zero, he blew out two tires during an emergency landing. Whew—close call, fella. —Eric Adams
Young pilot takes a crack at GlobalFlyer world flight-without leaving Salina
By Eric AdamsPosted 05.19.2005 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
Kansas State University flight instructor Brad Amstutz jumped at the chance to simulate Steve Fossett's round-the-world GlobalFlyer flight. The challenge presented by Popular Science: Take off at the same time as Fossett, fly the mission as if it were his own, and see if a simulated flight challenges him in the same ways the real flight challenges Fossett. His only rule is that if Fossett has to terminate his flight, Amstutz will also land.
With the rutan-designed globalflyer, these adventurers tackle “the first great aviation challenge of the new century.” Technology: cutting-edge. Risks: gigantic.
By Eric AdamsPosted 01.18.2004 at 12:00 pm 0 Comments
“Around the world in 80 hours.” The happy marketing slogan affixed to Steve Fossett’s attempt to set a nonstop, around-the-world solo flight record makes it sound like something of a nostalgic lark: Hints of Jules Verne, the golden age of global adventure.
Adventurers Steve Fossett and Richard Bransonâ€”with a little help from design genius Burt Rutanâ€”build an airplane for what they're calling the last great aviation record: a solo, nonstop around-the-world flight.
By Bill Sweetman and Matthew StibbePosted 10.24.2003 at 1:36 pm 0 Comments
October 23, 2003—London. Around the world on a single tank of gas has been done. Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager accomplished the feat in 1986, flying Burt Rutan's brilliant propeller-driven Voyager aircraft. It was a gruelling nine-day ordeal for the duo, and it stretched aviation technology to its limits.
But Richard Branson and Steve Fossett think they can push the technology even further, and today the pair unveiled their plans to go one better—flying solo, and in only a third the time.