Russian priest breaks round-the-world ballooning record

Fedor Konyukhov has also climbed Mount Everest twice and made solo trips to the North and South poles

Gabriel Samuels
Sunday 24 July 2016 15:20
Russian adventurer balloon landing

A Russian priest has flown solo around the world in 11 days in a hot-air balloon without stopping, claiming to have set a new world record in the process.

Fedor Konyukhov, 65, landed in the Australian Outback on 23 July after the epic journey in a two-metre-wide carbon gondola, which landed in an empty field.

Mr Konyukhov began his voyage in the combined helium and hot-air balloon on 12 July in Australia and took a longer route than the previous record holder Steve Fossett, whose journey lasted 13 days.

The balloon took him over New Zealand, out across the Pacific Ocean, then over South America and the Southern Ocean, covering a grand total of 34,820km (about 21,600 miles).

As the balloon crossed over the Antarctic Circle, temperatures dropped to below minus 50 degrees Celsius.

“It is scary to be so down south and away from civilisation. This place feels very lonely and remote – no land, no planes, no ships,” Mr Konyukhov wrote on his blog.

On 21 July, the gondola’s heating systems stopped working, forcing the pilot to thaw his drinking water using the balloon’s main burner.

Konyukhov setting off in his air balloon, at the start of his 11 day voyage

Surviving on just four hours sleep a day, Mr Konyukhov needed to constantly check the equipment systems for damage, and used a bucket to go to the toilet.

John Wallington, the flight coordinator, confirmed Mr Konyukhov was cold and exhausted but also “safe and happy” when he finally touched down.

The pilot bruised his cheek during the landing, but was otherwise unharmed.

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

Mr Konyukhov, an Orthodox priest in Russia, is a balloon enthusiast who had previously been to the North and South poles on solo trips.

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

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