Round-The-World Balloonist Reaches Atlantic


Russian balloonist Fedor Konyukhov, who launched from western Australia on July 12 in an attempt to beat Steve Fossett’s time for the only prior round-the-world solo balloon flight, already has faced weather challenges and equipment failures as he reaches the halfway point of his journey. As he crossed the southern Pacific at night, Konyukhov encountered snow, ice and turbulence, which shook the propane tanks suspended from the gondola so violently that some of them had to be jettisoned. A valve on the oxygen system also failed, which will require Konyukhov to climb to the top of his capsule and manually vent oxygen for the rest of the flight.

As the balloon approached South America, the continent’s tallest mountain, Aconcagua, at 22,841 feet, loomed ahead, but the balloon passed to the north of it, and is now flying above the southern Atlantic Ocean. Konyukhov, who is 64 years old, has been sleeping only in 30-minute intervals, according to a post on his website, and has been surviving mainly on energy bars and water. The balloon has been cruising mostly at altitudes between 15,000 and 30,000 feet. Fossett’s circumnavigation set a record of 13 days, 8 hours, and 33 minutes. Konyukhov has flown for about eight days to reach the halfway point of his journey. He has been flying farther north than Fossett did, adding many more miles to his flight path, compared to Fossett’s.