Balloonists Ready For Pacific Flight

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Balloon inspection in Japan

Veteran balloon pilots Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev will head for Japan on New Year’s Day to wait for the right weather window to launch a trans-Pacific flight, Bradley told AVweb this week. “The earliest we would launch would be January 7,” he wrote in an email. “Our window is open through February 20.” The Pacific has been crossed before by a helium-filled manned balloon — Double Eagle V in 1981 — but Bradley and his team hope to fly farther, establishing a new distance record for this class of aircraft.

The Double Eagle V crew lifted off from Nagashima, Japan, and landed three and a half days later in California, traveling 5,208 miles. Bradley and his crew will launch from Saga, Japan, and hope to cross the Pacific and then keep on going as long as they can, perhaps to the Eastern U.S., to establish a new distance record. They could fly as long as 10 days, covering up to 8,000 miles. The two pilots will fly inside a capsule built from Kevlar and carbon fiber, which is about the size of a compact car but weighs only 220 pounds. The balloon envelope, with a volume of 350,000 cubic feet, was built in Pennsylvania by gas-balloon craftsman Bert Padelt. Bradley said updates from the crew will be posted on their Facebook page under Two Eagles Balloon Team.

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