Latin America & Caribbean

Two Eagles gas balloon completes record Pacific crossing

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Media captionLeonid Tiukhtyaev (L) and Troy Bradley (R) were ferried by boat to the Mexican shore

Two pilots in a helium balloon have completed their crossing of the Pacific with a sea-landing off Mexico, setting new milestones on a six-day trip.

American Troy Bradley and Russian Leonid Tiukhtyaev landed safely, their Two Eagles Balloon team said.

They claim to have beaten the world distance and duration records by flying for more than 137 hours and travelling more than 5,209 miles (8,383km).

To set the records the team needed to beat the existing records by 1%.

"The Two Eagles balloon team is pleased to report the Two Eagles balloon has landed safely just off the Baja coast near La Poza Grande," their team said in a statement.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Two Eagles balloon is capable of staying aloft for up to 10 days
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The pair left Japan on Sunday and had aimed to land in the US or Canada

"The pilots made a controlled descent to a gentle water landing about four miles off the Baja coast. The balloon is stable and still inflated and the pilots are fine."

The two pilots left Japan on Sunday and had aimed to land in Canada or the US. However, weather forced them to change course towards Mexico.

They were met in the sea by a Mexican fishing boat.

The statement stressed that the sea landing was acceptable "under the international rules governing the establishment of world records".

"Two around-the-world attempts using a different type of balloon landed in the water and were approved as records."

Closet-like space

The two pilots needed to beat the existing records - both set in 1981 - by 1%.

Image caption The team released this image of the capsule being recovered by a fishing boat

For duration that meant staying aloft for about 138 hours and 45 minutes, and for distance they needed to travel about 5,260 miles.

The Two Eagles Balloon team said the landing "occurred at six days, 16 hours and 37 minutes", with the pilots covering the distance of 6,646 miles.

Gas-air balloons are difficult to steer, relying on the differing wind speed and direction at different altitudes.

In order to change height the pilots have only a helium release valve to go down and sandbags to jettison to go up.

The hi-tech "Two Eagles" balloon is made of a strong Kevlar and carbon-fibre composite, but weighs only 220 pounds (100kg).

It is fitted with monitors and other instruments that track their course and compile data to be submitted to record-keepers.

The specially-designed capsule sits beneath a huge helium-filled envelope and is designed to stay aloft for up to 10 days. The pilots live in a closet-like space with a very low ceiling.

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