| Valerie Hamilton |
LOS ANGELES (dpa) – Two men in a gas-filled balloon sailed past world records for flight distance and duration Friday, as they neared the end of a six-day flight across the Pacific Ocean.
Pilots Troy Bradley of the US and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia flew the Two Eagles balloon past the 8,467-kilometre mark at 0016 GMT, organisers said in a press release. That beat the previous record for distance flown in a gas balloon, set in 1981, by the one per cent required for official recognition.
They then bested the previous 137 hour, five minute, 50 seconds gas balloon flight duration record, set in 1978, by one per cent at 1551 GMT.
Bradley and Tiukhtyaev launched from Saga, Japan, on Sunday. An original plan to land in Canada was changed due to wind conditions, and they were now expected to touch down in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula on Saturday morning.
Bundled in cold-weather gear and breathing supplementary oxygen as they fly at altitudes over 4,700 metres, the two men have been piloting the balloon in four- to six-hour shifts from an unpressurised flight capsule smaller in area than a king-sized bed.
Unlike hot-air balloons, gas balloons are filled with a gas, in this case helium, which is lighter than air.
With changing temperatures, the gas expands and contracts inside the balloon, which rises and falls with the heat of the day.
Pilots control the balloon’s altitude by releasing small amounts of helium or dumping sand carried onboard as ballast.
Organisers cautioned that the new world records will not be considered official until US and International Aeronautics Associations have certified them.