On January 25 Fedor Konyukhov, a world-renowned Russian traveler/adventurer, and Ivan Menyaylo, Master of Sports in aeronautics, set a new world record for time aloft in a hot air balloon – 32 hours 20 min! The volume of the balloon was 3950 cubic meters.
The new record was set in Russia: the two aeronauts traveled more than 400 kilometers above the Tula, Moscow, Ryazan, Vladimir and Ivanovo regions.
This is the team’s second attempt at setting a new world record. Last year they lasted 19 hours but they gained valuable experience, and then improved the construction of the gondola. This year’s result was successful, with even less fuel remaining.
Pushing the Envelope
According to the rules of FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale), it’s only necessary to improve on the existing record by 1% to set a new one. The team chose to push flight time as far as possible, extending the new record by more than 10%.
The previous world record – 29 hours 14 min 35 seconds – was set by American pilot William Bussey in 1993. He sent a congratulatory message about the new record to the Russian pilots on Facebook.
The best weather for such activity is anticyclone: -20 Celsius or colder with little to no wind, a full moon (for night visibility), and no precipitation.
At the start of the day it was bitter cold. Colder temperatures require less fuel to keep a hot air balloon flying. However, it is a different story for the pilots. Try staying warm standing still on a single square meter of space when it’s -32 celcius (-25 F) – for 32 hours.
Overcoming ColdTo combat the cold Konyukhov and Menyaylo wore the reliable Red Fox Extreme, a down overall. These are the same suits used by alpinists in their ascents of Everest or the 14 other eight-thousander meter peaks. The pilots thought the Exteme was extremely warm, lightweight and windproof, making their flight relatively comfortable.
Raising the Bar
Ivan Menyaylo: “Every record, each achievement is an expansion of human limits. Overcoming technical limitations strengthens the winner’s spirit. Also it helps promote aeronautics and a healthy lifestyle. It was very nice to know that thousands of people followed us live and online. We’d received more than 200 SMS from different regions of Russia and other countries during our 32 hours of flight. Our friends, fans and media followed us, and their joy was an additional stimulus to move forward during the flight and one more award for us after landing. We believe that the more successful flights we do, the more boys will make aeronautical models, and then will go to aeronautical schools”.
The next project is a flight across the Arctic Ocean, from the North Pole to land. A balloon will land on the territory of one of the Arctic countries: Russia, Norway, Denmark (Greenland), Canada or the USA. The start is scheduled for the beginning of April, 2016. For Fedor Konyukhov it will be one more stage in the preparation for a solo round-the-world flight in a hot air balloon.