It’s funny how rapidly the weather can change here. Just before 1’O’clock I was taking off through low cloud and rain towards Rochester airport to fill-up with fuel and a bacon sandwich and within an hour, there’s bright blue sky as far as the eye can see.
I suppose this is one of the benefits of living in this part of England, a microclimate which compensates, in part, for the disadvantages of being at the very end of the earth, almost literally.
A note just arrived from the Virgin GlobalFlyer team. The round the world record-breaking trip by Steve Fossett, from Kennedy Space Centre to Manston, now has the green light – weather and permission from the Chinese to over fly – for next Tuesday. This should see the aircraft land at Manston on the Friday afternoon and it looks as if all the proverbial ducks appear to be lined-up for the attempt and Richard Branson will be choosing a suitably bright pullover for the occasion, I’m sure.
In order to take off with the required heavy load of fuel, air temperatures at the Florida spaceport's 3-mile-long space shuttle runway must be no higher than 11°C, so that the air is dense enough to provide sufficient lift.
If it is successful, the flight would eclipse the previous distance record for an aircraft not refuelled in flight, set in 1986 by Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager in an aircraft called Voyager. Both Voyager and GlobalFlyer were designed by Dick's brother, Burt Rutan, who also designed the SpaceShipOne craft that won the X-Prize.
The distance record for an aeroplane flight set by Rutan and Yeager was 40,212 kilometres (25,000 miles). The longest voyage by any kind of aircraft was the 41,978 km (26,100 miles) balloon flight by Breitling Orbiter in 1999.
However, GlobalFlyer intends to fly 46,000 km (28,600 miles), arriving at Manston in Kent 80 hours later and and demonstrating the advances in aircraft design technology over the last two decades. In 2005, GlobalFlyer completed a solo around-the-world flight, piloted by Fossett.
I see the Daily Mail is reporting today that the population of Britain, the most overcrowded nation in Europe, has passed 60 million for the first time, perhaps more, because the government has admitted that it has “lost” 250,000 failed asylum seekers, who they would rather like to leave the country and go home now, “Please.”