Russian Priest Konyukhov Breaks Balloon World Record

A 65-year-old Russian priest and adventurer has landed safely in a field on a private property in West Australia after setting a world record for circumnavigating the world solo in a hot air balloon.

Fedor Konyukhov came back to Earth and emerged from the balloon’s gondola after just over 11 days aloft, and expressed his appreciation for the smell of terra-firma.

“How wonderful it is,” Konyukhov said, referring to the smell of the Earth.

Konyukhov, who is a Russian Orthodox priest, beat the previous record of 13 days and eight hours set in 2002 by Steve Fossett, the late American businessman and adventurer.

Konyukhov landed 100 miles east of the town of the Northam, where he started his journey on July 12, about three hours after he flew over it on his return, flight coordinator John Wallington said.

“He’s landed, he’s safe, he’s sound, he’s happy,” Wallington said from the landing site. “It’s just amazing.”

Balloon Went To 10,000 Meters

And he added: “It’s fantastic — the record’s broken, everyone’s safe. It’s all good.”

American Steve Fossett also started from Northam to set his previous record.

Konyukhov took a longer route and roughly 11 days and 6 hours to complete the circumnavigation.

During the journey Konyukhov flew as high as 10,000 meters and dealt with extreme temperatures – as low as minus 56 degrees Celsius – that caused his oxygen masks and drinking water to freeze.

Konyukhov also had to cope with the failure of his heating system and fierce electrical storms, ABC said. On the last leg of the journey he was pushed far south toward Antarctica as he crossed the southern ocean between the Africa and Australia.

“It is scary to be so down south and away from civilization,” Konyukhov wrote in one entry in a blog he updated at various points during the flight.

Konyukhov is also the first traveler ever, who managed to fly around the globe on his first attempt.