23 Jul 2016

Fedor Konyukhov completed the solo around the world tour and landed safely in Australia!

Russian veteran traveler Fedor Konyukhov, 64, landed safe and sound near the small town of Bonnie Rock on 23 July at 16.15 local time (08.15 UTC) after a 11 day 8 hours and 42 minutes flight in a Roziere combined (hybrid) hot-air and helium gas balloon challenging the 2002 performance of aviation legend Steve Fossett (320 hours 33 minutes). Now, they are both the only pilots to have completed the solo circumnavigation.

His voyage began at sunrise on Tuesday 12 July at 07:33 Local Time (23.33 UTC, Monday, 11 July). When crossing the meridian of his take-off site on Saturday 23 July at 05.05 UTC he finished the Round-the-World feat. Only three balloons have succeeded in making it so far. The statistics are:

 

NAMES YEAR TIME RTW DISTANCE FLIGHT DURATION
Bertrand Piccard & Brian Jones 1999

370 h 24 min. (15d 10h 24m)

40.814 km

19d 21h 47m

Steve Fossett

2002

320 h 33 min. (13d 08h 23m)

33.195 km

14d 19h 50m

Fedor Konyukhov *) 2016

269 h 32 min. (11d 05h 32m)

32.996 km

11d 08h 42m

 

370 h 24 min. (15d 10h 24m)

*) all figures subject to confirmation.

According to Don Cameron, Assistant FAI Official Observer and manufacturer of the balloon it had not been an easy flight. His burner system had to be repaired using spares carried on board. His oxygen system is designed to bubble through a water trap to humidify it, but the water has at times frozen solid. His oxygen masks had to be kept inside his clothing to thaw it out while breathing through the other. The gondola is not pressurised, so breathing oxygen is vital. Outside temperatures have been as low as -30°C.

The biggest problem has been the weather. In the Pacific Ocean, he found himself surrounded by thunderstorms, but by flying at different heights he managed to fly around them. After crossing the Andes he flew to the sea close to South Africa in relative calm, but the biggest storm of the trip awaited him in the Indian Ocean. There was no way to avoid it and the only choice was to try to overfly it, but the tops of the thunderstorms were much higher than he could go. The balloon was drawn into the thunder cells and he reported being in cloud with lightning flashes all around him.

The wind also took a difficult direction sweeping him southward towards Antarctica and the cold and empty Southern Ocean. After passing the challenging weather the track turned north again to more pleasant conditions. He crossed the Australian coast on Saturday morning and flew within sight of his take-off point in Northam near Perth. On Saturday evening (Western Australia time) he landed, only 194 km from his take-off more than 11 days before.

The FAI is now waiting for the official claims to be sent in by the FAI Official Observers John Wallington and his Assistant Don Cameron in order to ratify the records.

FAI would like to congratulate Mr. Konyukhov and the whole team behind this project to this fantastic achievement!

Have a look at his journey on his website!

Photo credit: ABC News