Two Eagles helium balloon has completed the Pacific Ocean crossing with a sea-landing off Mexico, setting new milestones on a six-day trip.
Pilots Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev landed safely, their Two Eagles Balloon team said.
They claim to have beaten the world distance and duration records by flying for more than 137 hours and travelling more than 5,209 miles (8,383km).
To set the records the team needed to beat the existing records by 1%.
“The Two Eagles balloon team is pleased to report the Two Eagles balloon has landed safely just off the Baja coast near La Poza Grande,” their team said in a statement.
“The pilots made a controlled descent to a gentle water landing about four miles off the Baja coast. The balloon is stable and still inflated and the pilots are fine.”
The statement added that Mexico’s authorities “are co-operating fully and the Coast Guard is en route to the balloon. We anticipate they will tow the capsule to shore”.
Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev left Japan on Sunday, January 25, and had aimed to land in Canada or the US. However, weather forced them to change course towards Mexico.
The statement stressed that the sea landing was acceptable “under the international rules governing the establishment of world records”.
“Two around-the-world attempts using a different type of balloon landed in the water and were approved as records.”
The two pilots needed to beat the existing records – both set in 1981 – by 1%.
For duration that meant staying aloft for about 138 hours and 45 minutes, and for distance they needed to travel about 5,260 miles.
The Two Eagles Balloon team said the landing “occurred at six days, 16 hours and 37 minutes”, with the pilots covering the distance of 6,646 miles.
Gas-air balloons are difficult to steer, relying on the differing wind speed and direction at different altitudes.
In order to change height the pilots have only a helium release valve to go down and sandbags to jettison to go up.
The hi-tech “Two Eagles” balloon is made of a strong Kevlar and carbon-fiber composite, but weighs only 220 lbs.
The balloon is fitted with monitors and other instruments that track their course and compile data to be submitted to record-keepers.
The specially-designed capsule sits beneath a huge helium-filled envelope and is designed to stay aloft for up to 10 days. The pilots live in a closet-like space with a very low ceiling.
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American Troy Bradley and Russian Leonid Tiukhtyaev have surpassed the world distance record for a flight in a helium balloon after crossing the Pacific Ocean.
The two pilots also hope to set a new duration record.
Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev left Japan in their “Two Eagles” balloon on January 25 and had aimed to land in Canada or the US.
However, weather has forced them to change course towards Mexico where they are due to land sometime on January 31.
Their hi-tech balloon is fitted with monitors and other instruments that track their course and compile data to be submitted to record-keepers.
The specially-designed capsule sits beneath a huge helium-filled envelope and is designed to stay aloft for up to 10 days.
To set new distance and durations records the team needed to beat the existing records by 1%.
Photo Tami Bradley
For distance that meant a journey of about 5,260 miles to beat the existing record of 5,208 miles set in 1981.
On January 29, the Two Eagles team tweeted: “The pilots have just surpassed the distance needed to set a new record. 5,261 miles or 8,467km.”
“We’re not taking any time to celebrate,” said head of mission control Steve Shope.
“We have a lot of work we have to do, and we’re just taking this flight one hour at a time.”
On its website, the team says Two Eagles will not have “broken the record” until documentation is approved by the US National Aeronautic Association followed by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale – a process that could take several weeks or months.
The existing duration record they hope to beat was set in 1978 when three pilots made the first trans-Atlantic balloon flight, spending 137 hours, 5 minutes and 50 seconds in a gas balloon.
To set a new record, the Two Eagles team must stay aloft for about 138 hours and 45 minutes.
At the moment, it is not clear exactly where the Two Eagles balloon will land.
The team had been aiming for Canada but a ride of high-pressure ridge off the US West Coast forced the balloon into a sweeping right turn toward Mexico.
A network of balloon enthusiasts has been organized to act as chase crews, but correspondents says it remains unclear if the balloon will be able to land in a place where a ground crew can help them.
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