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Fossett flight foiled in Florida

Daredevil grounded by fuel leak

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Millionaire businessman and adventurer Steve Fossett has been temporarily thwarted in his latest round-the-world wheeze.

The attempt to break the record for the longest uninterrupted flight was nixed by persistent fuel leaks, which have plagued preparations of fellow sky-botherer Richard Branson's ultra-light Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer aircraft. Fossett told reporters back in January: “We're still struggling with this problem.”

Despite this, the latest fuel leak was discovered as the equipment was being loaded, just 25 minutes before Fossett's planned first light take off from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida this morning.

This a second hold-up for the mission, which was previously grounded by Chinese new year celebrations.

The engineers say the problem needs sealant which takes 24 hours to dry. In a press conference Fossett said he does not now expect to take off tomorrow, though is optimistic for later in the week as weather forecasts remain favourable.

Fossett last year became the first person to fly solo around the world with fuel to spare, and and set his sights on the distance record, held since 1986 by Dick Rutan and Jeanne Yeager. His planned route will this time take him from Florida, around the world at an altitude of 45,000ft, before crossing the Atlantic a second time and landing at Manston in Kent.

Stock market tycoon Fossett's record-breaking endeavours have included the Le Mans 24-hour race, the zeppelin speed record, dog sled racing, and yachting. He is best known for round-the-world ballooning however, including several crash-landings, and near death in the Coral Sea on one occasion.

Global Flyer has been lauded by Richard Branson as a model of fuel efficiency that future commercial jets should work towards given the predicted increases in aviation and the consequent greenhouse gas emissions. In spite of this, he has founded Virgin Galactic, which will offer extremely carbon-hungry space travel to those who can afford the $200,000 asking price. ®

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