This warm and bright day in Salina, Kansas will go
down in history as the day that Steve Fossett set a great aviation world
record for speed around the world solo, non-stop and non-refuelled.
After 67 hours and 1 minute of gruelling sleep
deprivation and 12 unappealing diet milkshakes, Steve finally touched
down in front of an excited crowd of public and press at Salina
Municipal Airport at 19:48:56UTC, despite having some very worrying
problems earlier in the flight.
At the start of the flight, Steve experienced
intermittent failures with the Global Positioning System and then, as
the flight continued, fuel readings indicated that the aircraft had lost
a significant amount of fuel shortly after take-off. Both of these
problems were serious threats to the flight’s continuation. It was
’touch and go’ at times, but Steve seemed to have luck on his side, with
good tailwinds pushing him along across the last leg of the Pacific
As Steve exited the cockpit and waved to the crowds,
he managed to gingerly stand up and walk even though he, as expected,
appeared to be weary and tired. His happiness at completing the attempt
and getting back on the land to see his wife Peggy, however, was obvious
and his smile said it all.
When asked how he was feeling, Steve remarked: "That
was a difficult trip. I mean it was one of the hardest things I've ever
done. To be on duty for three days and night with virtually no sleep."
Steve added: "I was in control and I think I was able to make rational
decisions and didn't make major errors, which is a great danger when you
get this tired." He was very relieved and added, "It happened
successfully and on the first attempt."
Despite admitting that he did not sleep at all in the
first day and only had half a dozen naps for the rest of the time, Steve
said: "I feel great. Well, yes I could do with a shower and I could do
with a little sleep, but I really do feel great."
Steve added that he was looking forward to having a
real dinner after all those milkshakes.
Of the crowds Steve said: "I do these things because
I want to do them for my self esteem and my personal satisfaction, and
this is the first time a big crowd has come out to support me on a
project and in the records that I do. I think that's a really good sign
that all these people share the enthusiasm and excitement for an
Steve said the record was "the most important
aviation record yet to be done, but it's not the last important
record...I'm not ready to announce any new projects, but, in fact, I
have three projects in planning right now."
Sir Richard Branson, who was there to congratulate
Steve immediately on disembarking from the aircraft, gave him a high
five and soaked him in champagne. Later Richard, who can now have his
watch back, said: "I poured the champagne over him to try and cool him
down a bit...he stinks to high heaven."
Of Steve's condition Richard added: "He is wide
awake. I just asked him whether he might go back and have a sleep and he
said "no I plan to party," so I suspect he'll still be going for another
Richard also maintained that Steve is just relieved
to be alive and thought that Steve began to relax and enjoy the flight
when he had crossed the Pacific Ocean.
The entire Mission Control team was there on Steve's arrival. Jon Karkow,
from Scaled Composites, thanked everyone involved in the project and
said: "It's been a real team effort." And when Steve was reunited with
Kevin Stass, Mission Control Director, all he needed to say to the man
who has guided him throughout the flight was "what a job".
Although the flight has been recognized as the first
solo trip around the world by Guinness World Records, it is still to be
sanctioned by the National Aeronautique Association (NAA). When it is,
it should be recognized as the fastest non-stop, non-refuelled