Trip Aims To Break All-Time Distance Record

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The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer launched successfully at 7:22 Wednesday morning from Kennedy Space Center on a planned 80-hour, 26,000-mile jaunt around the world, plus. The aim is to fly the longest nonstop non-refueled distance ever in an aircraft. On takeoff, pilot Steve Fossett passed the 8,000-foot mark on the runway where he had hoped to rotate, and instead rotated sharply and lifted off at 11,500 feet, with about 4,000 feet of runway remaining. The aircraft ran into two birds about the size of pigeons as it climbed out, but no damage was reported. Fossett is expected to land at Kent International Airport in southern England on Saturday. The route may vary as Fossett seeks out favorable winds, but he is first heading for the African coast, then past Egypt and the Red Sea, then across India and China, then past Japan. It will take about 17 hours to cross the Pacific, arriving above the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. Fossett will then fly above Texas and Florida, and continue northeastward to Newfoundland, passing Ireland before landing in England.