He travels through the sky, rounds the world, sets the record for hot air balloon travel

Journal of People report

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A 65-year-old Russian balloonist, Fedor Konyukhov, came back to Earth in the Australian Outback on 23rd July, after claiming a new record by flying solo around the world nonstop in 11 days, officials said.

Starting his journey on July 12, he landed 160 kilometers (100 miles) east of Northam, where he started, about three hours after he flew over the same town on his return, flight coordinator John Wallington said.

“He’s landed, he’s safe, he’s sound, he’s happy,” Wallington said from the landing site. “It’s just amazing.”

“It’s fantastic—the record’s broken, everyone’s safe. It’s all good,” he added.

Although, the Swiss-based World Air Sports Federation did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of the new record.

Konyukhov’s gondola is a carbon box 2 meters (6 feet, 7 inches) high, 2 meters long and 1.8 meters (5 feet, 11 inches) wide.

Konyukhov’s team had said that landing the balloon could be the most challenging and dangerous part of the journey. While landing, the balloon bounced twice over 200 meters (yards) in an empty field and tipped on its side before the support crew grabbed it to prevent the deflating balloon from dragging it farther, crew member Steve Griffin said.

“He’s got a bruise on his cheek, but he’s pretty well unscathed,” Griffin said.                           

After being hugged and cheered by supporters, Konyukhov flew by helicopter back to Northam, where his first shower in 11 days was a priority, Griffin said.

He returned to Australia directly over the west coast city of Perth, then over the airfield at Northam, 96 kilometers (60 miles) to the east by road – which is a demonstration of precision navigation of his 56-meter (184-foot) -tall helium and hot-air balloon

Another record of 13 days, 8 hours for 33,000-kilometer (20,500-mile) journey was set by American businessman Steve Fossett in 2002. He also started from Northam. Fossett, 58 at that time, was forced by strong winds to spend more than a day in the air after setting his own record as the first person to circle the globe in a balloon. After he landed on a cattle ranch in southwest Australia’s Queensland state his capsule tumbled along the ground for 15 minutes. He emerged unhurt from the capsule, although with a bloodied mouth from biting his lip during the rough landing.

Konyukhov, who is a Russian Orthodox priest, took a longer route and roughly 11 days, 6 hours to complete the circumnavigation.

To help him land, crews in six helicopters followed the 1.6-metric-ton (1.8-ton) balloon from Northam inland.

His journey took him through a thunder storm in the Antarctic Circle, where temperatures outside the gondola fell to minus-50 degrees Celsius (minus-58 Fahrenheit).

At a time when the gondola heating stopped working, so Konyukhov had to thaw his drinking water with the balloon’s main hot air burner, Wallington said.

Konyukhov released helium to prevent the balloon from continually climbing when it rose to heights up to 10,614 meters (34,823 feet) and  speeded up to 240 kilometers (150 miles) per hour, his son Oscar said.

Between hours of checking and maintaining equipment and instruments Konyukhov aimed to get four hours of sleep a day in naps of 30 or 40 minutes. He used a bucket for a toilet which he emptied over the side.



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