Fedor Konyukhov visits Cameron Balloons, the world’s largest balloon maker

14 July 2014

After completing his solo row across the South Pacific Ocean from Chile to Australia, Fedor Konyukhov announced that he intends to be back to the Green continent in the summer of 2015 for a daring adventure to fly solo around the world on a helium/hot-air balloon (Roziere). It will take approximately 9 months to build the envelope and capsule. The season for flying an air balloon in the Southern Hemisphere is June through August, allowing just enough time to construct the balloon and prepare for the expedition.

In early July Fedor Konyukhov, along with Vladimir Kuksov and Oscar Konyukhov, flew to Bristol, England to visit the Cameron Balloons, the world’s largest balloon maker and the oldest modern balloon maker in Europe. The Cameron Balloons company was established in 1971 by Don Cameron, who was the first to cross the Alps and the Sahara by hot-air balloon, and in 1990 made the first balloon flight between the UK and what was then the USSR. Cameron has made two Atlantic crossings by balloon, one of which was the first-ever transatlantic balloon race in 1992 when he won second place. 

At Cameron Balloons Fedor met with all of the leading company specialists, including Don Cameron himself and Alan Noble who was a project manager for Steve Fossett who flew round-the-world on Spirit of Freedom.  At the meeting, both sides discussed the details of manufacturing the balloon and necessary training for Fedor. He will take a course to learn how to fly the helium/hot-air balloon (Roziere) and then must acquire a certain amount of hours of flight time. 

The envelope will have two sections, both filled with helium. During the day the air inside the balloon envelope will be heated by the sun’s radiation. At night time, the burners will be turned on to keep the vessel aloft. Utilizing the heat from the sun and the heat generated by the burners makes it possible to fly for many consecutive days without landing. To fly around the world non-stop solely on helium would require too many fuel tanks.  

According to the calculations done by the Cameron Balloons team, the amount of helium required to fly non-stop around the world is 11,000 cubic meters. Fedor will also need 28 propane fuel tanks to keep feeding the burners. Each propane gas tank will be mounted outside of the capsule. As a tank runs out of the fuel, Fedor will switch it with the full one to keep the burners going. The switching between the empty and full propane tanks will be performed at the altitude of 5-8 thousand meters, at a speed of 200-300 km/h.

The capsule will be constructed of a carbon material with a hatch and a look-out window next to a navigational section. The bottom of the capsule will have two keels in case of landing on the ocean. The majority of the flight will take place above the oceans, and it’s critical to stay afloat in case of an emergency landing in the water. The inside interior of the capsule will be similar to the cabin of Fedor’s ocean row boat Tourgoyak: navigation area, galley, and a section for sleeping. The cabin atmosphere will not be supplemented by oxygen which means Fedor is going to wear an oxygen mask once the altitude reaches 5,000 meters.

At the end of construction and before the start, the total weight of the balloon will be 8600 kg. By the end of the flight, the vessel will weigh about 3,000 kg.

As of today, the only person who was able to fly solo a helium/hot-air balloon around the world non-stop was Steve Fossett. The Spirit of Freedom was launched from Northam, West Australia on June 19th, 2002 and on July 3rd, 2002 landed in Queensland, Australia. Prior to the successful flight around the world Fossett made five solo round-the-world attempts that didn’t succeed, including the one when he was forced to land the balloon in Russia. The time on the 20,626.48-mile flight was 13 days, 8 hours, 33 min. While flying across the Indian Ocean, Fossett established a 24-hour record for speed. The Spirit of Freedom flew at the altitude of up to 10,700 meters, and up to speeds of 299 km/h.  

Fedor Konyukhov plans to start and finish his solo nonstop round-the-world flight from Australia as well. A tentative location for the start of the expedition is Northam. The route of the expedition as follows: Australia – Tasman Sea – New Zealand – Pacific Ocean – South America (Chile, Argentina) – the Atlantic Ocean – South America – the Indian Ocean – Australia.

Fedor and his team are to return to Cameron Balloons in September to do the paper work that will initiate manufacturing of the balloon and capsule. 

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed