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Fossett's farewell fatalities

Birds killed by round-the-world plane

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Steve Fossett's non-stop flight distance record attempt has entered its second day, but was nearly scuppered on take off, it has emerged. As soon as Fossett had got off the ground a flock of birds at the Kennedy Space Centre could have brought him crashing back down, the Virgin GlobalFlyer website reports.

Fossett told his team: "Take-off was a bit scary to say the least. I had to use most of the runway to get off the ground. This was particularly hairy because I could not have aborted even if I had wanted to. To make matters worse, two birds hit the aircraft.”

The birds were spotted above the end of the runway before take-off, and later two were found dead on the ground. A large bird being ingested by a jet engine may cause it to explode, aviation experts explained.

Chief project engineer Jon Karkow said: “In this case the birds appear to have hit the leading edge of the wing and perhaps the nose of the boom tanks.” No damage could be detected, however.

The main worry now is that the collision may cause another fuel leak, which beset preparations for the attempt.

Fossett this morning was over the Arabian peninsula, approaching India. Along with China, Saudi Arabia insists on special permission being granted to use its airspace. The GlobalFlyer team now say they have all the permits they need to get around the world.

Track Fossett's progress here. ®

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