February 8, 2006
The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer has successfully started its endurance flight record attempt despite suffering a bird strike on take-off.
The long distance experimental aircraft took off from the 4,550m-long (15,000ft) Space Shuttle runway at John F Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, Florida at 07:22 today at the beginning of its 80h, 41,800km (22,600nm) record attempt. Virgin says two pigeon-sized birds hit the GlobalFlyer on take off, but there was no engine ingestion and no apparent damage.
For the GlobalFlyer to set a world record to travel further, non-stop and non-refuelled, than any other aircraft, its pilot Steve Fosset will have to travel further than the current record of 33,520km set by Scaled Composites’ Voyager 1986.
The 34.5m (114ft) wingspan Scaled Composites Model 311 GlobalFlyer had a gross take off weight of 10,000kg (22,100lb) as it rotated at around the runway’s 3,940m marker in temperatures of 8°C (47°F). If the temperature had been above 12°C, the flight would have been abandoned due to low engine thrust efficiencies in the higher temperatures.
The flight had been delayed from yesterday due to a fuel leak and marginal weather conditions. Initially today had been ruled out but a successful fix to the fuel system and rerouting to enable GlobalFlyer to follow the jetstreams needed to achieve the record led to the sudden decision to go.
With 8,180kg of fuel in 17 fuel tanks Fossett will circumnavigate the globe and continue on to the UK’s Kent International airport in south east England. The countries to be overflown will not change with the new route and include China, Iran, Ireland, Libya, Mexico and Myanmar.
The Scaled Composites-designed and built aircraft will fly at speeds in excess of 250kt (440km/h) with its single Williams FJ-3 ATW engine. The aircraft is expected to land in the UK at around 19:00 on 11 February.