Trans-Pacific Balloonists Exceed Distance Record

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(Updated)

Two Eagles balloon at launch

Two Eagles balloon at launch

The Two Eagles balloon crew that launched last week in Japan has now achieved one of its goals -- the flight on Thursday passed 5,260 miles, the current world record for distance in a gas balloon. Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev are also on track to beat the record for time aloft, just over 137 hours, if they keep flying until Friday morning. As of Thursday evening (about 8 p.m. Eastern), the team was focused on planning for a safe landing, which they expected to happen in Baja California sometime on Saturday morning.

The balloonists' tracking site shows they have taken a turn to the right as they approach the California coast. According to the ground crew, the pilots cannot continue on the easterly track because it's blocked by a high-pressure ridge. By changing altitude, the pilots can intercept winds that will steer them toward Baja, where weather is expected to be favorable for landing. On Friday morning, the team's crew announced the balloon had passed the absolute world record for time aloft (duration) for gas balloons of 137 hours, 5 minutes, 50 seconds, set by Double Eagle II on its transatlantic flight in 1978. The team continues to plan for a Saturday morning landing on the Baja peninsula in Mexico. 

The team's records are not official until all documentation and data is reviewed and ratified by international aeronautical officials. The Two Eagles flight is being tracked online at the team's website and updates are reported via social media.