Fossett Plus Sailplane Goes New York-To-Dallas (-ish)

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Chalk up another record for Steve Fossett -- compliments of one of the longest stretches of ridge-soarable geography in the world (the Andes). The world's best-known extreme aviator broke the straight-line distance record for sailplanes Dec. 4 when he flew an ASH 25M high-performance sailplane about two-thirds the length of Argentina, a total distance of 1,358 miles. Terry Delore accompanied Fossett as "co-pilot." The flight, between the Argentine cities of El Calafate and San Juan, is roughly equivalent to the distance from New York to Dallas. It took the duo 15 hours and 42 minutes and beat the old record, set by Klaus Ohlmann on the same course, by about eight miles. Fossett said conditions were perfect for the flight, which took him over the spine of South America in the stiff winds that mark spring over the Andes. It's a favorite haunt of top sailplane pilots. Fossett and Delore now have 11 open class sailplane records recognized by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. Next month (current departure time slated for Jan. 4), Fossett will try to become the first to fly solo and nonstop around the world in Burt Rutan's Global Flyer jet. That flight is expected to take 80 hours.