Fedor Konyukhov is approaching coast of South America

17 July 2016

During the last 24 hours Fedor had to perform a few difficult manoeuvres.   Yesterday afternoon the pilot saw large cumulus clouds (cumulonimbus) on the horizon, at the height of 10-11 km, well above the Morton balloon flight level.   He decided to descend, that meant turning to the left and trying to go around the clouds.   The speed of flight has reduced, but the balloon flew away from the cumulonimbus cloud.   Fedor took a bearing on the cloud, so that he could pass clear of the cloud as with a ship in the ocean.   All went well with this manoeuvre.   Just as he finished the manoeuvre, the night fell and he was flying blindly in the night, through the tops of the clouds.   He encountered snow and ice crystals.   A layer of ice a few centimetres thick has formed on the gondola.  The turbulence was so severe that the propane cylinders were swinging and hitting each other.   The gondola was hanging on the rafters and swinging like a cradle, suspended at the height of 8 kilometres.  There was poor visibility.   Fedor had to jettison a few half-empty cylinders, as they were swinging very dangerously.  That helped.

In the morning the (somewhat lighter) balloon – went up to 8200 km and… a safety valve venting excess pressure from the oxygen cylinder has failed. Pressure raised to 5 Bar.  Another 10 minutes and the emergency valve (Burst disk) would have gone off.  This would have meant an end to flying at high altitudes, and in this case the pilot needs to go down to 3000 meters (as per his instructions) and start preparations for landing. Fedor had to jump on top of the gondola and manually vent pressure from 5 bar to 3 bar.  The problem has not yet been solved, the pilot will have to manually adjust the pressure in the liquid oxygen cylinder, which hangs outside, possibly, until the end of the flight.  

Photo: Oxigen cilinder with a pressure gauge, pressure relieve valve and manual purge vent.

The cold front did not end either.  Clouds stretched as far as one can see.  Suddenly burner number 3 malfunctioned.   Adapter connector has bust and was venting gas.  To prevent fire, Fedor had to shut off the faulty burner.  Now there are only 5 functioning burners remain (3 on one sides and two on the other).  The envelope is covered with ice, above-zero air temperatures start only at 2000 meters above the ocean surface.  Going down is not possible (yet) due to cloud below. Currently Fedor has to carry hundreds of kilograms of ice stuck to the balloon’s envelope.  

These were the last 24 hours in the life of the pilot Fedor Konyukhov.  

Ahead are the Andes with a maximum height of 7000 meters (Mt. Aconcagua).  It is necessary to fly with a good altitude margin in order to avoid a possible wind rotor turbulence.  Fedor slept for 2 hours in total in four 30 minutes intervals.  He ate only once and mostly survives on energy bars and water.  Chilean aviation authorities do not recommend to transit in the corridor between 30-35 degrees south latitude and would like to see balloon to the south, in the direction of Puerto Montt – Cape Horn, where there is minimum traffic and lower mountains.  At this point in time it is not possible to meet their requirements due to jet stream direction flow.

14200 km covered.

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

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