ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It's now in the world records books of long-distance ballooning: Two pilots from the U.S. and Russia traveled farther and longer in a gas balloon than anyone in history when the crossed the Pacific Ocean in a helium-filled balloon.
The Federation Aeronautique Internationale said Thursday it ratified records for distance of more than 6,650 miles (10,700 kilometers) and for duration of 160 hours and 34 minutes for Troy Bradley of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia.
The flight, which had been 15 years in the making, ended early Jan. 31 just after sunrise when it touched down in the water a few miles off the coast and about 300 miles north of the popular beach destination of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Bradley and Tiukhtyaev happened to be in Washington, D.C., visiting the National Air and Space Museum on Tuesday when they learned of the ratification.
Bradley said he's relieved all the paperwork is done. But he doesn't feel much differently than the day the balloon landed.
"I knew we had broken the record by substantial amounts," he said. "Had it been close, then I would have been sweating it out."
The men beat a 137-hour duration record set in 1978 by the Double Eagle crew in a cross-Atlantic flight. They also exceeded the distance record of 5,209 miles set by the Double Eagle V team during the first trans-Pacific flight in 1981.
So what's next?
Bradley has spent his summer getting up before dawn and flying tourists over Albuquerque and the Rio Grande as part of a booming ballooning business. He has no plans, at least for the next 12 months, of setting any records.
But, he said, "There's obviously others that I have my eye on. Probably some hot-air records are next."