Fedor Konyukhov

MORTON Balloon is sent to the start in Australia

Last week in Bristol (UK), a historic event took place. Morton balloon, in which the traveler and pilot Fedor Konyukhov plans to fly around the world, was officially transferred to Morton Company. Handover of the balloon was held with the participation of Don Cameron, the owner of the company-manufacturer Cameron Balloons, and the management of Morton Company - Alexander Ruchiev, the president, and Oleg Kolchenko, the vice-president.

The same day, the envelope and 34 fuel cylinders were loaded into 40-foot container for transportation to Australia (Perth) by sea. Travel time is 35 days. The gondola and burners will be sent in mid-May by DHL Company – official logistic partner of round the world flight.

Thus, we can take the interim results of the project preparation of around-the-world flight on the Morton balloon. Cameron Balloons coped with the task and created a unique balloon of Roziere type in time.

“British company Cameron Balloons has many years of successful experience in the manufacture of balloons, so we chose this company to create our Roziere balloon. Balloon manufacturing process started about a year ago, and today the most important stage of preparation for the around-the-world flight is complete - the balloon is ready. We are confident that Cameron Balloons’ specialists applied all their knowledge and experience, and the Morton balloon has true English quality,” - said Alexander Ruchiev, the president of Morton GC.

The manufacture of a balloon was attended by over 50 people. Today, Morton balloon is the largest combined-helium hot air balloon (Roziere) in the world. Its volume is 15 thousand cubic meters, and height - 56 meters. Its height can be compared to the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. Gondola of the aerostat, where the pilot Fedor Konyukhov will be during the flight, is made of ultra-strong and lightweight carbon fiber and equipped with sophisticated avionics instruments.

“Our company creates on average 100-120 different balloon per year, but Morton balloon is special for us. Last time we made such a balloon for more than 15 years ago, when Steve Fossett made the first non-stop around-the-world solo flight”, - said Don Cameron during the official handover of the balloon. - Also, our company was the manufacturer of Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon for a successful around-the-world flight of Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones.”

The owner of Cameron Balloons himself repeatedly made long flights in balloons - including across the Atlantic, as well as from England to the Soviet Union. With extensive experience in aeronautics, he is fully aware of all the risks and complexities associated with such a travel. “It can take a long time to plan, try to figure out all the force majeure, but in the end, it is a journey, and everything can not be foreseen. Much depends on the skill of the pilot, as well as the experience of a meteorologist and equipment reliability,” - said Don Cameron.

During the day balloon will be at a predetermined height due to solar heat and expanding of helium gas injected into the interior cell of the balloon, and at night – due to six gas burners’ work, which will heat up the air under the lower cell. The height, at which the Morton balloon may fly, is at the level of modern aircraft flight 8 - 10 thousand meters. The possible flight speed - 300 km/h. (The current record is 320 kilometers per hour).

Within 14-15 days, the pilot would have to sleep for 3-4 hours, rest of the time he would have to closely monitor the devices and catch favorable air currents. In addition, the pilot will need to regularly leave the inner limits of the gondola to eliminate the icing on the burner, switch the fuel hoses. During the flight, low enough temperature will be maintained inside the gondola and the temperature outside the gondola will vary depending on the altitude and time of day, sometimes reaching -50 degrees.

“Around-the-world flight in a balloon requires not only specialized knowledge and skills, but also a great experience and analysis of previous flights, including unsuccessful attempts, - said Fedor Konyukhov, the pilot Morton balloon. My task is to fly around the world on the first try, while Steven Fossett managed to do it only on the sixth attempt. The results obtained in the course of his attempts, let us hope that we have considered all the possible errors and nuances. Since the previous around-the-world flight, the technology has leaped forward, and we also focus on progress.”

The start of the trip is scheduled for June 2016 from the Australian Northam (WA). Given the fact that the weight of the structure at the start will be closer to 10 tons, the bottom of the balloon is hung with 34 cylinders with propane gas, 12 thousand cubic meters of helium is pumped into the inner shell - this balloon requires special conditions to start. City of Norham is selected for several reasons. It is 100 kilometers inland from the Indian Ocean of the Australian continent, at a sufficient distance from the zone of influence of the sea breeze. Nearby there are no large settlements, exclusion zones, power lines and other restrictions on flights. Great Victoria Desert begins to the east of Northam - an ideal platform for a slow and controlled gradual climb to check all systems before the balloon starts to fly over the Pacific Ocean. It is planned that the balloon will cross Australia within 2 days and will be released in the Tasman Sea.

The route of around-the-world trip will take place over three continents and three oceans: Australia - Tasman Sea - New Zealand - Pacific Ocean - South America (Chile and Argentina) - Atlantic Ocean - Africa (South Africa, Cape of Good Hope) - the Indian Ocean and the finish in Australia. The length of the route will be about 33-35 thousand kilometers.