Russian balloonist sets world record for circumnavigation
By Peter Gosnell
(Reuters) - Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov 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.
The 64-year-old Konyukhov emerged from the balloon's gondola after more than 11 days aloft expressing his appreciation for the smell of the earth, and "how wonderful it is", according to millionaire businessman and fellow aviator Dick Smith, who was on hand to assist with the landing.
Konyukhov, who embarked on his epic journey from Northam in Western Australia on July 12, set the record of just over 11 days when he passed above the township 100 km north east of Perth, Australian national broadcaster ABC reported earlier.
The Russian balloonist beat the previous record of 13-1/2 days set in 2002 by the late Steve Fossett.
In completing the epic journey, Konyukhov flew directly over Northam, a feat described as "incredible" by Smith.
"After going 34,000 kilometers around the world he crossed the runway where he took off from," Smith said. "That's never happened before. It was mainly luck and it's just unbelievable."
Smith completed the first solo circumnavigation of the world by helicopter in 1983.
When Konyukhov broke the record he was directly over Northam at an altitude of approximately 6,000 meters and traveling at 60 kilometers per hour, Smith said. Continued...