Fedor Konyukhov

Balloon MORTON on its way to Australia

24 hours ago at around 01:00 UTC 21st Fedor flew into very severe thunderstorm activity.  He was at around 8,500 metres with the tops well above him and unreachable at night on the burners.  Fedor had made the decision to cross the low pressure system on the best forecasting available so the intensity of the activity was an unwelcome surprise.  Surrounded by nonstop electrical activity and towering cumulonimbus clouds with 60 to 90 knot (ref windyty.com) sea surface winds over the southern ocean is not a balloonist’s preferred position.  We discussed the situation with the very helpful staff at the Australian Maritime Safety Authority as Fedor tracked through the conditions.  The tension at the control room was extreme - and we had our feet safely on the ground!

A combination of factors has meant Fedor has had no gondola heat for the last day and a half. All his water is frozen and needs to be thawed by using the main burner.  Adequate hydration is essential for many reasons including avoiding frost bite.  Some equipment particularly with touchscreens has failed in the extreme cold.

As I write this Fedor’s balloon is doing exactly as predicted by David Dehenauw and after reaching 60 degrees south is now heading for Western Australia at 220kph.  It is no time to relax as a frontal system still needs to be crossed although the weather should be well below his level.  We are currently working with Air Traffic Control in Melbourne because, as remote as he is a Qantas jet will fly nearby in a few hours.  The support and flexibility of Air Traffic Controllers through the entire flight has been really appreciated.

On approaching the coast, hopefully in the early hours of Saturday the plan is to descend to get out of the flow that otherwise would miss Australia to the south.  The balloon should then track inland passing the take off longitude and possibly setting a new around the world by balloon speed record.  In the control room this is the first time we have considered the record. Just achieving a safe outcome has been the focus.

Excitement is rising.

John Wallington

Flight coordinator. Northam, Western Australia.  

You can follow the balloon’s path here: https://my.yb.tl/RRTW2016

You can also view the route map at www.iridium360.ru

The official website for the project “Around the world in a Roziere balloon “Morton” can be found at a flyfedor.ru