Two balloonists who flew a helium-filled craft across the Pacific Ocean to a Jan. 31 touchdown in waters off Mexico’s Baja California have staked their claim to new world records for distance and duration for the flight.
The two pilots of the Two Eagles Project, Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev, flew an unofficial distance of 6,646 miles, surpassing the previous record of 5,208 miles, set in 1981. Their time aloft, 160 hours, 38 minutes (six days, 16 hours, 38 minutes), exceeded the old record of 137 hours, five minutes, 50 seconds set in 1978, the team reported on its website.
A graphic of their flight track across the Pacific from Saga, Japan, illustrated how an area of high pressure forced a late swing southward toward Mexico as the balloon neared the U.S. West Coast, scrapping earlier expectations of a touchdown on land in one of the northwestern states.
Bradley, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tiukhtyaev, of Moscow, were plucked from the water after the early-morning touchdown about 300 miles north of the resort town Cabo San Lucas by the crew of a fishing boat. They were delivered to Puerto San Carlos, where they were reunited with members of their recovery team. Also present for the completion of the journey was Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry. The city of Albuquerque and the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum had been host to the mission control center for the Two Eagles flight.
The balloon pilots spent the night in a local hotel before returning to a boisterous welcome, a news conference, mariachi music, and a champagne toast at the Albuquerque International Sunport on Feb. 1. The balloon’s envelope and capsule were recovered from the waters off Baja, the team said.