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Branson still a jet fighter speed record virgin
from The Cape Argus, June24, 2006

Richard Branson flies the English Electric Lightning at Thundercity South Africa
“Well firstly this was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done, to go straight up and take the controls at 1000 miles an hour, to actually be flying faster than the speed of sound, upside down looking at Table Mountain below, with some rush”

Sir Richard Branson (Interviewed by Neil Owens about his English Electric Lightning flight at Thundercity 24.06.06)

British tycoon and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson missed setting a new speed record in a fighter jet by two seconds at Cape Town’s Thunder City. Branson and pilot Dave Stock attempted to take an Electric Lightning jet from standing position on the runway to an altitude of 29 000 feet in a matter of seconds. The attempt was to coincide with the launce of his new cell phone service company, Virgin Mobile, in South Africa yesterday. Brandon and Stock attempted to beat the record Stock set with British businessman John Caudwell at Ysterplaat Air show last year when the lightning reached the 6 km-high target in 102 seconds after releasing its brakes. The record attempt was a bid to draw attention to the value of airtime.

Branson said South Africans had been “ripped off” by high phone service and call costs for too long. It was important, he said, that cellphone users paid only for the second used, and not be charged for a full 60 seconds when a call ran five seconds into the next minute.

Branson entered the hangar flanked by two models dressed as angels in skimpy tops, hot pants and flowing wings.

Before he boarded the jet, a smiling Branson asked if any one would like to take his place, and laughed when his question was met with silence.

On his return he was pumped with adrenalin saying.” This was the greatest rush of my life…. I’ve never flown so fast and been handed the controls at 1 000 miles an hour.
“It was amazing to fly supersonic fast over the Cape and break the sound barrier.”
Branson said that even though he missed the record by two seconds he would attempt to do it again.

The upside of his failure, he said, was that Caudwell would now have to give a lot of money to charity because of a bet between the men.

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