This is, in other words, a delightfully dangerous undertaking. The airplane is a flying fuel tank that must remain controllable in buffeting winds at high altitude while it burns through 82 percent of its weight. But Fossett is confident. For starters, the 59-year-old businessman, who made his fortune as an investment banker and his fame as an adventurer, has done this kind of thing before. His nautical and aviation records include the first nonstop solo flight around the world in a balloon, which he achieved in 2002 on his sixth try. (He is also currently shooting for a glider altitude record of 62,000 feet, and on Nov 14 in Argentina set a glider distance record of 1,244 miles.) His partner in adventure, Sir Richard Branson, the swashbuckling founder, CEO and chairman of project-sponsor Virgin Atlantic, is an old ballooning buddy with world records of his own--and will serve as Fossett's reserve pilot. And Fossett can place a lot of faith in his aircraft and the man who designed it: After all, Burt Rutan built the historic, prop-driven Voyager airplane, which his brother, Dick Rutan, and Jeana Yeager flew on a nine-day around-the-world unrefueled flight in 1986.