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Fuel Leak Puts GlobalFlyer Launch On Hold


February 7, 2006 — Steve Fossett's planned dawn launch of his "Ultimate Flight" Tuesday morning was called off because of a small fuel leak discovered on the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer at around 6:50 a.m. local time. The problem occurred in one of the new vent systems that was added in the boom tank, according to Jon Karkow, chief engineer from Scaled Composites. One of the vent lines that penetrate the tank has a leak and this was discovered when fuel started leaking out of a wheel well.

"We have discovered a small fuel leak which happens to be an element of the fuel system which we changed last flight," Karkow explained. "This new element has never been tested with a full fuel load before. We learned once it was fully fueled that we had a small leak in that system. The leak is a fairly simple thing to fix but it will take around 24 hours because it requires fuel sealant material."

A disappointed Fossett said all systems were "go" until the leak was discovered. "We were ready to take off on time as planned," he said. Although good weather conditions are expected for the rest of the week, he said he does not expect to launch Wednesday. Mission control will conduct further analysis of jet streams and weather conditions to assess whether the flight is possible this week.

Virgin Atlantic Chairman Sir Richard Branson noted, "Both of us are balloonists and we have had one occasion where I had to wait three months, but don't worry, it won't be such a long wait this time."

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