MANSTON, England: Adventurer Steve Fossett completed the longest non-stop flight in aviation history with an emergency landing, flying 42,467 kilometres in about 76 hours but stopping early because of mechanical problems.
Ground control said Fossett, 61, broke the airplane distance record of 40,210 kilometres while his lightweight experimental plane was flying over Shannon, Ireland, late on Saturday.
Generator problems then forced him to land the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer at Bournemouth International Airport in southern England instead of at a military air strip in nearby Kent.
"I was really lucky to make it here today, there was a lot going on," Fossett told reporters after he landed. "The tension of the final part really took it out of me, but I will be fine in the morning."
The millionaire adventurer completed his non-stop journey around the globe and then some over 3 days despite losing about 340 kilograms of fuel during his takeoff on Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida because of a leak.
Fossett recounted the journey after he arrived later on Saturday at his scheduled finishing point Kent International Airport on a private jet alongside Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire owner of Virgin Atlantic, which sponsored Fossett's record bid. He was greeted there by his wife, Peggy, and rapturous applause from the assembled crowd.
Stepping onto the tarmac in his silver flight suit, Fossett said he was relieved after being forced to make the emergency landing.
He said he realized he was in trouble when he began his descent for Kent and a light came on indicating the plane's generator had failed, prompting him to put emergency procedures in place.
The tense climax was one of several episodes that nearly doomed his voyage.
During takeoff Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center, his plane leaked fuel and he nearly ran out of runway.
"I had to pull up with all my might" to get the plane in the air before the end of the airstrip.
Severe turbulence over India "almost broke the plane apart," he said, forcing him to strap on a parachute for fear of having to eject.
Source: China Daily