Age is no barrier to adventurer

On Thursday, March 4, I was one of 10,000 people waiting in Salina, Kan. for the historic landing of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, piloted by Steve Fossett.
We stood on the north end of the two-mile runway. As we waited, the control tower had difficulty deciding where Fossett should land, telling us first that he was coming from the south, then from the north, and then from the south.
Finally he came down from the north.
We watched intently, but all we could see was helicopters taking pictures of the GlobalFlyer. After Fossett landed, he slowly taxied down the airstrip and back—allowing us a wonderful look at the plane with its 114-foot wing span.
Then the record-setting pilot stepped out of the seven-foot-long cockpit and was greeted by Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic airline, who had sponsored Fossett’s flight.
Also greeting the plane was Harrison Ford, who is slated to star in an upcoming Hollywood movie about Fossett’s trip around the world.
Although we witnessed this star-studded event in person, we had unfortunately forgotten our binoculars. So people watching on their television sets probably saw more than we did.
No matter. It was a very historic moment and the crowd was electrified.
Like Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1927, Fossett and his record-setting flight will be recorded in the annals of aviation history.
Fossett was the first person to fly a plane around the globe solo, non-stop, and without refuelling. Cruising at 45,700 feet, the 22,900-mile trip took 67 hours.
“A significant first,” said David Hawksert from the Guinness Book of World Records, who was there to verify the landing.
Hawksert presented a certificate to Fossett, citing the pilot’s “courage, endurance and strength of will.”
It surely took “courage” to take off with the 3,350-pound plane overloaded with 18,100 pounds of fuel for the entire flight.
After the successful take-off, Branson said, “I would say 80 percent of the biggest worrying stage is over.” But there were two other worrisome times during the 67 hours.
One came early in the flight when Fossett’s global positioning system malfunctioned and he flew blind in the dark over the U.S.-Canada border.
The other when the plane mysteriously lost 2,600 pounds of fuel, and Fossett had to decide whether to go on across the Pacific Ocean or return to Japan.
Fossett displayed amazing “endurance.” After three days with only quick cat naps of one to three minutes, he said, “I could have lasted out another day in terms of sleep and concentration.”
And “strength of will” seems to be a trademark of Fossett. With this feat, he has garnered 65 endurance records.
Among his records are swimming the English Channel, speed sailing, driving in the French Le Mans, and being the first person to fly a balloon solo around the world.
Now, at an age when many people are ready to retire, 60-year-old Steve Fossett has made aviation history. “It happened successfully and on the first attempt,” said a jubilant Fossett.
When asked what’s next, he replied he has three projects in the planning stages. And most likely, he once again will accomplish his goals—because age is no barrier to Steve Fossett.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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