Image: GlobalFlyer
Thierry Boccon-Gibod  /  Pool via Reuters
The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer flies over the Atlas Mountains in Morocco on Tuesday.
updated 3/2/2005 9:17:09 AM ET 2005-03-02T14:17:09

Over halfway to history, millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett raced toward the Pacific Ocean Wednesday in his bid to become the first person to fly a plane around the globe solo, nonstop and without refueling.

Fossett hit the halfway point of his journey just after 2 a.m. ET, while flying west across India, according to his Web site. He has now crossed China and is heading toward Japan before the long final stretch of the flight across the Pacific Ocean and Western United States.

The jet took off after sunset Monday from Salina.

“At this time everything is going very well, I’m very happy with the situation and I think we’ve got a good chance,” Fossett said Tuesday during a call from the plane.

Fossett’s mission control in Salina estimated he will complete the 23,000-mile (36,800-kilometer) journey at midday Thursday.

Fossett, 60, already holds the record for flying solo around the globe in a balloon, as well as dozens of other aviation and sailing records.

Video: Reaching for the record Project manager Paul Moore said Fossett reached his cruising altitude of 45,000 feet over the Atlantic instead of over Saudi Arabia, as originally expected, because of better-than-expected performance of the GlobalFlyer.

The project is being financed by Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson, a longtime friend and fellow adventurer.

For a while early Tuesday, Fossett was flying blind and in the dark over the U.S.-Canada border after experiencing difficulties with his Global Positioning System locator. Moore said Fossett relied on help from mission control to navigate before the problem corrected itself.

“It was a minor scare that could have been a real show-stopper,” Moore said.

Now, Fossett's biggest challenges are staying on course — and awake — during the 66-hour journey.

“He’s rather used to staying up for a long time,” project manager Paul Moore said, hours after Fossett’s takeoff Monday night. “I think it’s not a walk in the park at 30,000 feet.”

Fossett will survive on diet milkshakes. “I just picked a bunch of flavors off the shelf at the store,” he said.

The milkshakes represent “low-residue” nourishment that will cut down on solid waste disposal needs during the flight, spokeswoman Lori Levin explained. Fossett's flight suit is equipped with a collection bag and tubes to deal with nature's call.

As for sleep requirements, the plan was for Fossett to take 30-minute "power naps" during stretches of the flight, after passing control over to an autopilot system. A video system will send live pictures of the flight controls back to GlobalFlyer's mission control in Kansas. If anything seems amiss, the controllers will awaken Fossett.

Fossett is trying to break several aviation records, including the longest flight by a jet. The record is 12,532 miles (20,168 kilometers), set by a B-52 bomber in 1962.

Aviation pioneer Wiley Post made the first solo around-the-world trip in 1933, taking more than seven days and stopping numerous times. The first nonstop global flight without refueling was made in 1986 by Jeana Yeager and Dick Rutan, brother of GlobalFlyer designer Burt Rutan.

In 2002, Fossett became the first person to fly a balloon solo around the world.

This report includes information from MSNBC's Alan Boyle.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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