Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov is attempting to fly around the world in a hot air ballon in record time. Lifting off from The Northam Aero Club, western Australia on 12 July, the 64-year-old Orthodox priest was given a warm send off by his wife and children, who watched him depart at sunrise. The Aero Club was used by American aviator Steve Fossett on his 4th solo attempt to fly around the world in a balloon. It took Fossett 13 and a half days – a time that Konyukhov hopes to beat.
Konyukhov has a long list of expeditions under his belt. He is the only person to have reached the five extreme Poles on earth – the North Pole (three times), the South Pole, the Pole of Inaccessibility in the Arctic Ocean, Alpinists pole (Mount Everest) and he sailed around the world via Cape Horn four times. He has also rowed 9942 miles across the Pacific Ocean.
However, according to his wife, Arina, this particular adventure is his biggest yet. "It was his dream from his youth and, he always says [to] me, one of his most [biggest] dreams and one of the most difficult dreams is to [go] up on air-balloon. So, it's the main dream of him," she told Reuters.
Yet Neil Bennett from the Bureau of Meteorology Western Australia said it would be difficult to tell whether Konyukhov would succeed in breaking the record. Konyukhov and his team have been preparing for the flight for almost a year.
Travelling in a Rozière balloon, which was built in Bristol, Konyukhov obtained a temporary balloon pilot certificate to perform flights in Australia.
Supporting him during lift off was Australian entrepreneur and adventurer, Dick Smith. "He would be incredibly excited. He's climbing at about 500ft per minute, he's put the burner on, the helium is now being heated by the sun and off he's going, he may be back here in 14 days' time," Smith told Australia's Nine Network.
Konyukhov plans to fly over New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and back to Australia, travelling 20,505 miles.