Steve Fossett

Steve Fossett with Richard Branson

Steve's name is synonymous with record breaking. His eight-year quest to become the first person to achieve a Solo Balloon Flight Round the World captured the public's imagination and made him a household name. In July 2002, he achieved his dream at the helm of the "Bud Light Spirit of Freedom" and in-so-doing set an Absolute Round the World Speed Record, a new record for the Fastest Speed by a Manned Balloon and a new 24 Hour Balloon Distance Record.  

His reputation as one of the world's most accomplished private jet pilots is founded upon the 10 world records he has set, which include records for U.S. Transcontinental, Australia Transcontinental, and the fastest flight ever in a non-supersonic airplane of 742.02 mph. With co-pilot Terry Delore, Steve has set 9 of the 21 Glider Open records. 

Alongside aviation, Steve has made speed sailing a specialty and, since 1993, has dominated the record sheets, setting 21 official world records (14 standing) and 9 distance race records (8 standing). On the maxi-catamaran "Cheyenne" Steve has twice set the prestigious 24 Hour Record of Sailing, and in October 2001 Steve and his crew set a TransAtlantic record of 4 days 17 hours - not so much beating as obliterating the previous record by a whopping 43 hours 35 minutes - an increase in average speed of more than 7 knots! 

Record breaking is Steve's life. And if you want further proof, when most normal people would be preparing for the challenge the Global Flyer will place upon them, Steve broke the Absolute Round the World Sailing Record on "Cheyenne" and before he embarks on his non-stop flight around the world, he's going to have a stab at the Glider World Altitude Record, too. 

His resume reads like a history book of the last decade of record breaking. But if you thought record breaking was all Steve does, you'd be wrong. In his spare time he’s swum the English Channel, taken part in the Ironman Triathalon, and raced at the Le Mans 24 hours? twice. 

Solo non-stop around the World

touchdown at Salina, Kansas

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 Ocean. 

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 airplane adventure."

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 24 hours."

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 circumnavigation ever.

the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer (built of course by Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites)