Severe turbulence over India at 14:30 UTC Thursday caused Steve Fossett to put on his parachute because he thought a wing might break. The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer is more sensitive to turbulence than most aircraft, which explains why he needed calm conditions for his climb to 45,000 feet Wednesday. He did not tell his controllers of his concerns until hours later. Fossett is scheduled to reach the United States today (Friday) at 1900 UTC. If he has the fuel, he would continue on and reach Ireland at 17:30 UTC Saturday, arriving at his goal, Kent International Airport near London, at 18:30 UTC Saturday. He could then claim the record for the farthest flying aircraft in history. His groundspeed was a little low Friday morning, only 208 knots, after spending most of the flight since Wednesday afternoon at groundspeeds of 320 to 375 knots. Controllers asked Fossett to throttle back his single Williams International jet engine to an indicated airspeed of less than 115 knots to save fuel after he inexplicably lost 750 pounds (enough for 1,000 miles) during the climb from Kennedy Space Center. Follow his flight on the Web.
February 10, 2006