The famed Russian traveler, Fyodor Konyukhov, who is on a solo balloon flight around the world, has reached South America’s western coast and is currently flying over Chile, his son Oskar told TASS over the phone from Northam, Western Australia on July 18.
Oskar, the head of the flight control center, said that during the latest round of communications his father told him he was yearning to see land as "it is depressing to fly for days over the ocean having nothing but water and clouds before your eyes."
"The first lap of the flight across South America is rather difficult," Konyukhov Jr. said. "Flights in mountainous areas are always very risky. Flying over the ocean, he can descend in case of emergency, say from 7,000 to some 100 meters above sea level, but in the Andes the margin of altitude is minimal. The balloon will fly in the vicinity of Mount Aconcagua. Fyodor will have to ascend to an altitude of 8,000 meters."
Last night, after Konyukhov’s balloon flew through some cumulus clouds, its basket developed ice formations several centimeters thick. The situation became further complicated after one of the balloon’s six burners used to combust propane to keep air hot inside the envelope malfunctioned. "This burner has been underperforming from the very start. Fyodor has been perpetually repairing it but it keeps on failing," Oskar said. "He will try to solve this problem again probably over the Atlantic. Now he has more important things to think about - he has mountains to fly by."
Konyukhov Sr. started his daring round-the-globe solo balloon escapade from Northam in the small hours of July 12. By now, he has crossed Australia and the Pacific. The traveler’s Morton balloon is expected to sail non-stop west to east. It has yet to fly over the southern part of South America - Chile and Argentina - and then cross the Atlantic Ocean, fly over South Africa and over the Indian Ocean. The flight is expected to finish in Australia in approximately the same area from where it took off.
The balloon is cruising at an altitude of five to ten kilometers, and will cover a distance of 33,000-35,000 kilometers. Overall, the entire voyage is anticipated to take about two weeks.
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