MEXICO – A gas-filled balloon co-piloted by an American and a Russian touched down safely in the waters off Mexico, completing a week-long trans-Pacific flight that unofficially broke two world records, a spokeswoman said.
The balloon carrying Troy Bradley of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and his Russian co-pilot Leonid Tiukhtyaev, landed near La Poza Grande in the Mexican State of Baja California Sur after a flight that lasted six days, 16 hours and 38 minutes and covered 6,646 miles (10,696 km), organisers of the mission said in a statement.
Bradley and Tiukhtyaev, known as the Two Eagles, left Saga in southern Japan on Jan 25 in their attempt to surpass the world distance record for flying a gas-filled balloon, as well as the record for time in flight for that type of aircraft. Both records need to be certified before becoming official.
â€œThe pilots made a controlled descent to a gentle water landing about four miles off the Baja coast,â€ said Kim Vesely, a spokeswoman for the ballooning mission.
During the balloonâ€™s descent, winds turned parallel to the coast, making it more prudent for the pilots to execute a landing in the water, she said.
The Albuquerque, New Mexico-based team that oversaw the flight later said in a statement the two pilots were picked up by a fishing boat and taken to shore.
â€œWe would note that a water landing is acceptable under the international rules governing the establishment of world records,â€ Vesely said.
The flight surpassed the distance record of nearly 5,209 miles (8,383 km) for gas balloons set on the only previous manned trans-Pacific flight, in 1981. It also topped the flight duration record of about 137 hours aloft in a gas balloon set in 1978 by a team crossing the Atlantic.
The mission team earlier on Saturday gave a time for the duration of the Two Eagles flight as one minute less than a figure they provided later.
The Two Eagles balloon, which relied solely on an enclosed chamber of helium gas for lift, is different from hot air balloons and so-called Roziere balloons, which rely on both hot air and lighter-than-air gas. Roziere balloons have by far the greatest range of the three types.
The National Aeronautic Association and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, need to certify the records, a process that can take months, officials with the mission said. – REUTERS