By now you’ve heard that Steve Fossett made it back to Salina, KS in one piece after flying solo, non-stop, around the Earth without refueling. Kudos to Fossett for having the talent, stamina, money, and balls to pull it off. As much, or more, credit goes to Burt Rutan for designing the GlobalFlyer. He’s the guy who designed and flew Voyager, a piston-engine plane, on a similar flight with his partner, Jeana Yeager, in 1986. He also designed SpaceShipOne, the first privately manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice within the span of a 14 day period, thus claiming the ten million dollar Ansari X-Prize. Rutan’s design of GlobalFlyer was so efficient that Fossett had to deploy a drouge chute several miles away from the Salina airport in order to convince the plane to land, instead of flying on to Missouri.
This flight was important for at least two reasons. First, Rutan’s designs will make tomorrow’s aircraft more fuel efficient and less polluting. Second, Rutan proved that great things can be accomplished using private money, and not government grants or subsidies. God bless the free market!