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Kansas Town Is Launch Pad for Bid at Flight Record

Pilot Steve Fossett already has around-the-world records in ballooning and sailing.
Pilot Steve Fossett already has around-the-world records in ballooning and sailing.

Next week, if all goes well, Salina, Kan., will go into the history books.

The central Kansas town, population 50,000, will serve as the starting point for an attempt at what some call the last great aviation record. Steve Fossett, who set round-the-world records in ballooning and sailing, wants to become the first person to complete a solo airplane flight around the world without refueling.

Fossett is launching his historic bid from a 12,300-foot runway in Salina formerly used by B-47s at the now-closed Schilling Air Force Base. He'll be piloting the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer, a sleek, single-engine jet with a 114-foot-wingspan. When it takes off, 83 percent of its weight will be jet fuel.

Mission control will also be based in Salina -- manned in part by students from Kansas State University, which has an aviation school at the airport.

Regardless of whether Fossett achieves his goal, the residents of Salina are celebrating that his flight will throw the spotlight -- however briefly -- on their community.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.