The Two Eagles Balloon team, made up of Troy Bradley, 50, and Leonid Tiukhtyaev, 58, is pushing the sport of ballooning to new heights. Bradley, who has been flying since he was 14 years old, has logged over 6200 hours aloft and holds several impressive records. In his downtime, he also operates a commercial balloon company, Star Trail, Inc. out of Albequerque New Mexico. Tiukhtyaev, on the other hand, is an accomplished balloonist from Moscow Russia. He is the President of the Balloon Federation of Russia and is the only pilot in the world to have flown hot air, gas, and Roziere balloons, and hot air, gas, and Roziere airships.
The brag-worthy list of accomplishments go on, but what happens when you combine the skill sets of two expert fliers? An epic adventure. On January 26th, the dynamic duo departed from Japan on a journey that would span six days and over 6,600 miles to touch down off the western shore of Mexico. The successful completion of the voyage sets two new world records: one for the most hours aloft in a gas balloon and the other for the longest distance travelled in a gas balloon.
Although people have traveled for longer and further distances via balloon (such as the adventurous tycoon Steve Fosset), Bradley and Tiukhtyaev’s journey is unique. Most modern balloons are classified as “hot air” – its altitude being controlled by burning hot gas. The Two Eagles’ balloon, on the other hand, is a straight gas, helium balloon, which is controlled by letting out gas during the day (when the gas expands) and throwing out sand and water at night to regain altitude.
The trip began with the team primarily flying over land, but the adventurers soon headed out over the Pacific Ocean. The original intended trajectory of the balloon was for Canada or the United States, but due to a high pressure system, they were rerouted south to Baja Mexico.
Fortunately, the extended journey was ideal for the team, who cite friendship and camaraderie as one of the highlights of their perilous and fantastic balloon voyage. In regards to an American and a Russian working together, Tiukhtyaev explains, “We did not only crush the distance record. We crushed misunderstanding between people.”
Thus, the accomplishment is an indication of what people can do together when they put aside differences of politics and national policy and work together.