GlobalFlyer Endurance Tested (Sort Of)

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If ever there was a plane suited to being stuck in a holding pattern for an hour (or 24), this is it. GlobalFlyer, the plane that Steve Fossett hopes to fly solo around the world in a few weeks, was stacked up near its destination of Salina, Kan., Friday on the repositioning flight from Scaled Composites' headquarters in Mojave, Calif. "We were kind of loitering around," said Fossett, who will spend about 80 hours in the cockpit on the record attempt. Friday's flight was something of a shakedown for the plane and was flown at 47,000 feet. The flight profile called for a long, slow descent (400 fpm) and ATC elected to let eight other planes land before allowing the descent. Once in the thick, cold air over Salina, Fossett did a low pass along Salina's massive 12,300-foot runway before meeting reporters on the ground. He said the airplane performed well but there are some (unspecified) adjustments to make before taking off on the record flight. At least three more test flights are planned. The town of Salina (population about 46,000) is buzzing about the international notoriety that will come with the record attempt and Fossett, in turn, complimented the town folk on their cooperation. "The real enthusiasm for helping us made this happen," Fossett said. "Without them, we would have gone somewhere else."