Two Eagles pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev and Troy Bradley have broken the two most coveted world records in ballooning after floating from Japan to Mexico in a helium-filled balloon.
Tiukhtyaev, 58, and Bradley, 50, were roommates for nearly seven days, sharing a five-foot tall capsule barely long enough to lay down in, as they traveled at the speed of wind under their gas balloon.
The difference between a helium gas balloon and a hot air balloon is the method by which the balloon is controlled, particularly in relation to the ascent and descent.
In a hot air balloon, propane is used to heat and thereby decrease the density of the air inside of the balloon in contrast to the air outside of it. This causes the balloon to rise. To lose altitude, the pilot simply allows the air inside of the balloon to cool. A hot air balloon can fly as long as there is propane on board.
Interestingly, a hot air balloon has never crossed the Pacific.
A gas balloon like the Two Eagles’ on the other hand, is a less forgiving style of flying. The balloon is filled with helium only once, before takeoff. Altitude can only be controlled using weighted bags, usually sand, which hang off of the side of the capsule. To lift the balloon, you release some weight. The descent is accomplished by opening a valve and releasing the helium from the balloon.
The Two Eagles team set off from Saga, Japan and crossed the Pacific, 6,655.9 miles, to the coast of the Baja Peninsula on a trip that took 160 hours and 34 minutes (or 6 days, 16 hours, and 34 minutes). Both the distance traveled and the time aloft beat the standing world records.
The Two Eagles team secured the official National Aeronautic Association (NAA) national records on June 2. The paperwork is now being reviewed by the Fédèration Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) for the certification for the official world records.
The Two Eagles flight crushed the world record for duration, which was 137 hours, 5 minutes, and 50 seconds. That mark had stood untouched for an incredible 37 years, after the Double Eagle II crossed the Atlantic in 1978.
The world record for for distance was last set in 1981, when the helium-filled Double Eagle V traveled from Nagashima, Japan to the Mendocino National Forest in California. The Double Eagle V team traveled 5,208 miles, which the Two Eagles team beat this year by nearly 1,500 miles.
Sound crazy? Well, although helium wasn’t discovered on Earth until 1895, balloons were actually the first vehicle ever used for human flight, dating back to France in 1783.
Sources: Two Eagles Balloon Team