Like so many of Virgin’s previous record attempts, the Global Flyer isn’t just about breaking a record, it’s about breaking boundaries and setting standards in un-charted feats of engineering and human endurance. The first solo, non-stop, non-refuelled circumnavigation of the world at the helm of what has been described as “a fuel tank with room for one” will require a pilot of insurmountable talent.
With such a massive undertaking as this, there is only one man with the qualifications, experience and determination to lead the record attempt. A pilot of unquestionable calibre with multiple world records and world firsts in balloons, jet airplanes and gliders, not to mention numerous absolute world speed sailing records both single-handed and crewed, the pilot of the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer – and the driving force behind the project – is Steve Fossett.
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.