Two weeks at 11,000 meters: Russian adventurer ready for solo balloon flight world record

Fedor Konyukhov’s inside the basket of his air balloon ©
World famous Russian adventurer and Orthodox priest, Fedor Konyukhov, has everything ready for his nonstop solo balloon flight around the world, which will require him to survive at a temperature of +5 Celsius and altitude of 11,000 meters for two weeks.

“Our goal is well-known. It’s flying around the world without making stops on a ‘Morton’ hot air balloon, taking off in Australia and landing in Australia,” Konyukhov told RT in the British port of Bristol where his balloon and basket were loaded on ship.

The cargo is expected to arrive in Australia in six weeks, with the start of the flight scheduled for June or July this year.

Konyukhov said that he will repeat the route of US adventurer Steve Fossett, who was first to perform a nonstop solo flight around the world in a balloon in 2002.

“The American pilot snatched his record on his sixth attempt. We’re planning to do it on our first try,” he said.

The 64-year-old plans to complete the flight in 14 days, while the basket’s helium fuel supply is meant to last for 18 days.

The adventurer described his air balloon as a “giant” weighing 10 tons and standing 56 meters tall.

The construction of the balloon was the result of a massive international effort, “with the basket made in the UK; burners from Italy; fabrics from Spain; the equipment and the pilot are Russian. The US team is going to inflate the balloon. And the autopilot is from the Netherlands,” he explained.

Australia was chosen as the starting and finishing point for the expedition because the “main condition is that the start has to take place in a desert,” Konyukhov said. The balloon constructed for the flight “requires several thousand kilometers to gain momentum or land,” and Great Victoria Desert provides the necessary space, he said.

The basket of Fedor Konyukhov’s air balloon. ©

In addition, “Australia is a peaceful continent with good people,” the adventurer said. 

The balloon’s planned flight path lies through Australia, the Tasman Sea, New Zealand, the Pacific Ocean, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, and the Indian Ocean, before ending at the starting point in Australia’s Great Victoria Desert, he explained.

The feat will require all of the adventurer’s survival skills, as the balloon will travel at a speed of 200 or 300 kilometers per hour at altitudes of 10 or 11 kilometers.

The temperature inside the traveler’s enclosed carbon fiber basket will stand at just 5 degrees Celsius throughout the entire flight.

Konyukhov will have a ration of freeze-dried food on board, the same as the crew of the International Space Station use.

“I won’t be able to sleep for more than 20 or 30 minutes in a row” due to the need to keep the balloon on course, he said. “In total, I’ll be sleeping around five hours a day.”

The Russian will also have to clean the burners heating the helium in the balloon twice a day, which will require him to leave the basket at a height of 10,000 meters.

Fedor Konyukhov’s in front the basket of his air balloon ©

As for communication with the air flight controllers and his team on the ground, he will “use the same communication equipment as Boeing jets performing intercontinental flights.”

Konyukhov, who became an Orthodox priest in 2010, will also take the Bible and icons of his patron saints aboard.

“God give that the equipment won’t fail. And weather conditions will also be important, of course,” he said about the upcoming flight.

Konyukhov is the only man on the planet who has reached the North Pole, the South Pole, the Pole of Inaccessibility in the Arctic Ocean, and the top of Mount Everest.

He has sailed around the world via Cape Horn four times and crossed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in a rowboat.

READ MORE: 62 yo Russian solo sailor crosses Pacific on rowboat covering 17,000km in just 162 days

Konyukhov is the only man on the planet who has reached the North Pole, the South Pole, the Pole of Inaccessibility in the Arctic Ocean, and the top of Mount Everest.

He has sailed around the world via Cape Horn four times and crossed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in a rowboat.