Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov is seen in front of his balloon as it is inflated before the start of his record attempt for a solo hot-air balloon flight around the globe near Perth, Australia, in this handout image received July 12, 2016. Oscar Konyukhov/Handout via REUTERS(reuters_tickers)
By Peter Gosnell
(Reuters) - Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov has set a world record for circumnavigating the globe solo in a hot air balloon in a time of just over 11 days, Australian national broadcaster the ABC reported.
Konyukhov, 64, who embarked on his epic journey from Northam in Western Australia on July 12, beat the previous record of 13-1/2 days set in 2002 by the late Steve Fossett.
In officially completing the epic journey, Konyukhov flew directly over Northam, a feat described as "incredible" by good friend and fellow aviator Dick Smith.
"After going 34,000 kilometres around the world he crossed the runway where he took off from," the millionaire businessman Smith said. "That's never happened before. It was mainly luck and it's just unbelievable."
Smith completed the first solo circumnavigation of the world by helicopter in 1983. He was on hand at Northam with his helicopter to assist with the balloon's landing.
At the moment Konyukhov broke the record he was directly over Northam at an altitude of approximately 6,000 metres and travelling at 60 kilometres per hour, Smith said.
He said the Russian had been advised to fly for another hour in search of safer terrain on which to land.
"We've asked him to keep moving to try and get away from the hills and the power lines," Smith said.
During the journey Konyukhov flew as high as 10,000 metres and dealt with extreme temperatures - as low as minus 56 degrees Celsius - that caused his oxygen masks and drinking water to freeze, ABC reported.
Konyukhov also had to cope with the failure of his heating system and fierce electrical storms, ABC said. On the last leg of the journey he was pushed far south towards Antarctica as he crossed the southern ocean between the Africa and Australia.
"It is scary to be so down south and away from civilisation," Konyukhov wrote in one entry in a blog he updated at various points during the flight.
"This place feels very lonely and remote … just a thick layer of cyclonic clouds below me and dark horizon to the east."
(Reporting by Peter Gosnell; Editing by Tom Hogue)