Record flight attempt in final leg

first_imgCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Adventurer Steve Fossett was crossing the United States in a lightweight experimental airplane Friday on Day 3 of his quest to break aviation’s distance record. Mexico’s Baja Peninsula was his first sighting of land since starting his overnight trip across the Pacific. Fossett reached Japan – the midway mark of his expected 3-day trip – late Thursday. He faced severe turbulence over India and has suffered other problems. “It was so severe that at one stage Steve had put on his parachute because he was convinced the plane was falling apart,” said Jackie McQuillan, a spokeswoman for Fossett’s team. Before takeoff, the spindly plane had more than 18,000 pounds of fuel – enough that he should have had 500 pounds to 1,000 pounds of fuel left at the end of the 80-hour trip. But Fossett lost 750 pounds to a fuel leak during takeoff Wednesday, leaving little margin for error. Mission managers also worried about weak winds over the Atlantic during the last leg of the trip. Fossett’s plane, the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer, is made of carbon fiber and has a super fuel-efficient turbofan jet engine with a very high thrust-to-weight ratio. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card His goal is a nearly 27,000-mile trip – once around the world and then across the Atlantic again – with a landing today outside London. The voyage would break the airplane distance record of 24,987 miles set in 1986 by the lightweight Voyager aircraft piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager, as well as the balloon record of 25,361 miles set by Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard in 1999. Both Fossett’s plane and Voyager were designed and built by Burt Rutan in Mojave. Fossett’s team could not pinpoint the cause of the leak. Fuel leaks had delayed his takeoff and plagued Fossett’s successful flight last year when he became the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world without refueling. The plane’s ventilation system also was malfunctioning, causing the temperatures to rise to as much as 130 degrees. Fossett had to drink a large part of his water supply earlier than planned because of the heat, the team said. last_img