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Around the world in 80 hours: Fossett plans record-breaking trip

A delayed solo flight around the world without refuelling will be made early next year, Sir Richard Branson said yesterday.

The entrepreneur, who has spent more than £1m on the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer project, said the record attempt in the futuristic Capricorn jet, supposed to start this month, had been delayed by the commitments of its pilot, Steve Fossett, the American adventurer and aviator. It will take off between January and March, depending on weather.

The aircraft has made 16 test flights in the Mojave desert, California, with Mr Fossett, 60, at the controls for three.

Sir Richard said: "Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart crossed the Pacific and the last big challenge is to see whether someone can fly non-stop around the world and this is the plane to do it."

The pilot will have to endure 80 hours without sleep at 45,000ft, in a cockpit less than 8ft long and as noisy as a chainsaw held next to his ear. The plane will carrying four times as much fuel as the weight of its fuselage.