Sun, Jul 24, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Russian adventurer breaks round-the-world balloon record

AFP, SYDNEY

Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov stands in front of his hot-air balloon before departing on his round-the-world flight near Perth, Australia, on July 12.

Photo: Reuters

Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov yesterday broke the record for the fastest round-the-world flight in a hot-air balloon, his crew said.

Flight coordinator John Wallington said Konyukhov, who took off from Western Australia on July 12, had successfully flown the route by yesterday afternoon, but had yet to land.

His journey, taking a little more than 11 days, is faster than the record set by late American adventurer Steve Fossett, who, in 2002, became the first person to fly solo around the world in a balloon in a feat that took 13 days.

“The record is broken — no question,” Wallington said, adding that Konyukhov had flown his balloon almost exactly over his starting point. “He flew over the same field which he took off from.”

The flight route has taken Konyukhov from Australia to above New Zealand, across the Pacific Ocean, South America, the Cape of Good Hope and the Southern Ocean.

Winds pushed his flight toward Antarctica as he made his approach to Australia on the final leg of the journey, but he successfully crossed over land in the nation’s west early yesterday.

Wallington said the last 24 hours of the trip had been uneventful for the experienced Russian explorer, but joked that “the previous 10 days have been awful.”

He said flying through thunderstorms and getting pushed toward Antarctica by strong winds had been particularly hard.

Konyukhov, who has previously conquered both the north and south poles solo and set a record sailing a 27m-long boat round the world alone, had not been motivated by breaking the record, Wallington said.

“He just thought it would be a really nice thing to do,” Wallington said. “Breaking a record is a nice bonus, but the objective was just to fly around the world.”

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