Airlander 50 hybrid airship transporting mining equipment Artist impression © Hybrid Air Vehicles

Airlander 50 hybrid airship transporting mining equipment. Artist impression © Hybrid Air Vehicles

23 August 2016 © David Eyre

Hybrid airships are being proposed for transporting cargo to remote areas, such as mine sites, and may eventually be seen in Western Australia’s skies.

Benefits

Hybrid airships are are ideal for operating in remotes areas because they need very little supporting infrastructure – they can land anywhere with a flat landing area.

Benefits for resources projects are that no roads or railways need to be constructed prior to the start of a project.

Aeroplanes and helicopters are fast, but expensive to operate. Airships carry cargo for a one-tenth of the cost per tonne of helicopters, as well as having longer endurance and better cargo-carrying capacity than virtually any other flying vehicle.

Trains, trucks and ships can carry bigger cargo loads, but are slow and need supporting infrastructure (railways, roads or ports).

Hybrid airships are also more environmentally-friendly, producing less noise, less pollution, with a lower carbon footprint.

What are hybrid airships?

Hybrid airships are a new class of aircraft that use a combination of buoyant lift (lighter-than-air) from helium, aerodynamic lift from the shaped hull, and vectored thrust lift from engines that rotate and can direct their thrust in multiple directions.

Two companies are vying to win customers, and both have flown technology demonstrators and/or prototypes.

Both were competitors for a $500 million US Army contract to develop a Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) for intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance. The contract was won by Hybrid Air Vehicles, teamed with Northrop Grumman, beating a competing bid from Lockheed-Martin. However, the LEMV project was cancelled in February 2013.

Hybrid Air Vehicles designed, developed and manufactured the HAV 304 aircraft for the LEMV project, with Northrop Grumman as the prime contractor. The HAV 304 first flew on 7 August 2012. When the US Army cancelled the project in 2013, HAV purchased the HAV304 and converted in for civilian use as the Airlander 10. The Airlander 10 (which carries a 10 Tonne payload) first flew on 17 August 2016. This is currently the longest aircraft in the world (92 metres), capable of staying airborne for 5 days, with cruise speed of 80 knots (148 km/h), and powered by four 325hp 4-litre V8 direct injection turbocharged diesel engines. HAV is also proposing a larger Airlander 50, with a 50-Tonne payload. HAV states that 60% of lift comes from the helium, with the other 40% from aerodynamic lift, with vectored thrust from the engines contributing plus or minus 25%.

Lockheed Martin (USA) plans to have three hybrid airship variants in service by 2019; one that can lift 20 tonnes, another that lifts 90-tonnes and a massive version will carry 500 tonnes. The company says its 20 tonne version, which costs $US40 million ($52.5 million), cruises at 110km/h and is capable of flying around the world on a tank of fuel, although it would take a month. 80% of the lift on its hybrid airship comes from the buoyant lift produced by its helium and the other 20% from the aerodynamic shape, or from vectored thrust when taking off or landing. The company flew their technology demonstrator, the P-791, on 31 January 2006.

ZK-NCL Boeing 767-319ER (MSN 28745/677) of Air New Zealand at Perth Airport – Sat 24 January 2015 Parked at Bay 54 at the International terminal at 8.10pm, preparing for departure on the seasonal NZ162 service to Christchurch. Photo © Luke Pillion

ZK-NCL Boeing 767-319ER (MSN 28745/677) of Air New Zealand at Perth Airport – Sat 24 January 2015
Parked at Bay 54 at the International terminal at 8.10pm, preparing for departure on the seasonal NZ162 service to Christchurch.
Photo © Luke Pillion

23 August 2016 © David Eyre

Air New Zealand is planning to retire their Boeing 767 fleet on 31 March 2017, with NZ108 from Sydney to Auckland as their last scheduled 767 flight (NOTE: Subject to change).

The airline introduced the Boeing 767-200ER into service in September 1985, and their first 767 service to Perth was on 28 March 1986 by ZK-NBA. The 767-200ER fleet was retired in March 2005, with ZK-NBA being the last aircraft retired.

The 767-300ER was introduced in April 1991, with the first Perth visit on 28 October 1994 by ZK-NCH. The fleet was later modified with winglets to improve fuel efficiency.

The Boeing 767-300ER was replaced by Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on services between Perth and Auckland from 12 September 2014, but 767s were still used on the seasonal Perth – Christchurch services.

Four Boeing 767-300ER remain in service at the time of writing, ZK-NCG, ZK-NCI, ZK-NCJ, and ZK-NCL.

A54-001 Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, in 2 FTS markings, at Stans, Switzerland - Fri 12 August 2016. Taking off for an air-to-air photo shoot, now with the tail markings of 2 FTS (which is based at RAAF Base Pearce) and minus its Swiss registration HB-HWA. Photo © Stephan Widmer

A54-001 Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 234) of the Royal Australian Air Force, in 2 FTS markings, at Stans, Switzerland – Fri 12 August 2016.
Taking off for an air-to-air photo shoot, now with the tail markings of 2 FTS (which is based at RAAF Base Pearce) and minus its Swiss registration HB-HWA.
Photo © Stephan Widmer

20 August 2016 © David Eyre (Photo copyright Stephan Widmer – used with permission)

Following the inaugural flight by the first RAAF PC-21 A54-001/ HB-HWA on 21 July 2016, the aircraft was recently photographed by Stephan Widmer without is Swiss registration and wearing tail markings of 2 FTS (2 Flying Training School), which is based at RAAF Pearce.

A54-001 was taking off from the Pilatus facility at Stans, Switzerland, for an air-to-air photo shoot.

42 of the PC-21 aircraft will be used as trainers at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria and RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia, replacing Pilatus PC-9/A aircraft. Three PC-21s are being acquired for the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) based at RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia, and four Forward Air Control variants will go to 4 Squadron, which currently operates the PC-9/A Forward Air Control variant from RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales.

The first aircraft is due to be handed over to the RAAF at East Sale, Victoria in June 2017, and the first pilots course scheduled to start in early-2019.

 

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland - Mon 8 August 2016. Taking off on its first flight at the Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland. Photo © Stephan Widmer - used with permission

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland – Mon 8 August 2016.
Taking off on its first flight at the Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland.
Photo © Stephan Widmer – used with permission

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland - Mon 8 August 2016. Taxying in after its first flight at the Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland. Photo © Stephan Widmer - used with permission

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland – Mon 8 August 2016.
Taxying in after its first flight at the Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland.
Photo © Stephan Widmer – used with permission

 

 

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland - Wed 3 August 2016. Undergoing final tests at Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland, prior to its first flight. Photo © Stephan Widmer - used with permission

A54-002 / HB-HWB Pilatus PC-21 (MSN 235) of the Royal Australian Air Force at Stans, Switzerland – Wed 3 August 2016.
Undergoing final tests at Pilatus facility in Stans, Switzerland, prior to its first flight.
Photo © Stephan Widmer – used with permission

8 August 2016 © David Eyre

Following the inaugural flight by the first RAAF PC-21 A54-001/ HB-HWA on 21 July 2016, the RAAF’s second PC-21, A54-002/HB-HWB (MSN 235) made its first flight on 8 August 2016 at the Pilatus manufacturing facility in Stans, Switzerland.

42 of the PC-21 aircraft will be used as trainers at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria and RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia, replacing Pilatus PC-9/A aircraft. Three PC-21s are being acquired for the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) based at RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia, and four Forward Air Control variants for 4 Squadron, which currently operates the PC-9/A Forward Air Control variant from RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales.

The first aircraft is due to be handed over to the RAAF at East Sale, Victoria in June 2017, and the first pilots course scheduled to start in early-2019.

(Photos courtesy & copyright Stephan Widmer)

VH-XNC Bombardier CL-600-2B16 Challenger 604 (MSN 5619) of Surveillance Australia Pty Ltd (Cobham SAR Services Pty Ltd), at Perth Airport - Sun 7 August 2016. First visit to Perth, on approach to runway 24 at 12:25pm. The first of four Challenger 604s, which will replace five Aerorescue Dornier 328s for Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) search and rescue operations. The contract commenced the next day (8 August 2016), with Perth being the first city to utilise the modified Challengers. Three Challengers will be used, with one as an operational spare. The Challengers have been converted with a search radar, large search windows, electronic sensors, and doors to air drop life rafts, satellite phones, food and water to people in distress. The Challengers carry five aircrew – a captain, first officer, visual search officer, electronic search observer and aircraft mission coordinator. Built in 2005, ex C-FIDT, N335FX, C-FIDT, C-GLWT. Photo © Steve Jaksic

VH-XNC Bombardier CL-600-2B16 Challenger 604 (MSN 5619) of Surveillance Australia Pty Ltd (Cobham SAR Services Pty Ltd), at Perth Airport – Sun 7 August 2016.
First visit to Perth, on approach to runway 24 at 12:25pm. The first of four Challenger 604s, which will replace five Aerorescue Dornier 328s for Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) search and rescue operations. The contract commenced the next day (8 August 2016), with Perth being the first city to utilise the modified Challengers. Three Challengers will be used, with one as an operational spare. The Challengers have been converted with a search radar, large search windows, electronic sensors, and doors to air drop life rafts, satellite phones, food and water to people in distress. The Challengers carry five aircrew – a captain, first officer, visual search officer, electronic search observer and aircraft mission coordinator. Built in 2005, ex C-FIDT, N335FX, C-FIDT, C-GLWT.
Photo © Steve Jaksic

VH-PPG Dornier 328-120 (MSN 3053) of AeroRescue Pty Ltd, operated for AMSA, at Perth Airport - Sun 31 July 2016. Taxying in after landing on runway 24 at 10:31am. Photo © David Eyre

VH-PPG Dornier 328-120 (MSN 3053) of AeroRescue Pty Ltd, operated for AMSA, at Perth Airport – Sun 31 July 2016.
These aircraft will be replaced by Cobham’s Challenger 604 jets. Photo © David Eyre

7 August 2016 © David Eyre

Perth today saw the arrival of the first of four Bombardier Challenger 604 aircraft, VH-XNC (MSN 5619), which will replace five Aerorescue Dornier 328s currently in use for Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) search and rescue operations.

The new $640 million contract was awarded to Cobham SAR Services / Surveillance Australia in 2014 and will operate for 12 years from 2016, with a 3-year extension option.

Perth is the first of the three bases to receive the new Challengers, with operations to start on 8 August 2016, followed by Cairns on 10 October 2016 and Essendon (Melbourne) on 12 December 2016.

The current contract is operated by AeroRescue, which operates a fleet of five Dornier 328 turboprops modified for SAR operations, with the one aircraft each based at Perth, Darwin, Cairns, Brisbane and Melbourne (Essendon). AeroRescue is a subsidiary of Darwin-based Pearl Aviation Australia.

By using faster and longer range jets, instead of the current turboprops, Cobham believes it will be able to provide the same capability with fewer aircraft. Three Challengers will be used, with one  as an operational spare.

Australia is responsible for 10 per cent of the global maritime and aeronautical search and rescue services. AMSA coordinated 429 rescues in 2015, saving 219 lives.

Challenger 604 modifications

The Challengers will be converted for search and rescue operations with:

  • multi-mode search radar
  • video anomaly detection system
  • search and rescue direction finder
  • high definition electro-optical turret
  • large observer windows
  • high-bandwidth satellite communciations
  • Acacia mission management system
  • door to air drop life rafts, satellite phones, food and water to people in distress (converted baggage door on lower left rear fuselage).

The first aircraft arrived in Australia in December 2015 and was officially unveied in early January 2016. Most modification work is undertaken at Cobham’s facility at Adelaide Airport.

Interestingly, photographs of VH-XNC indicate that it has not yet been fitted with its search radar, electro-optical turret or video anomaly detection system.

Operations

The Challengers carry five aircrew – a captain, first officer, visual search officer, electronic search observer and aircraft mission coordinator.

Job advertisements by Cobham state that day shift response times are 30 minutes from SAR alert call to calling for aircraft taxi clearance. Night standby response times are 60 minutes from SAR alert call to calling for aircraft taxi clearance, and crews must attend the airport within 30 minutes of being called, and the crew must reside near the airport to meet these requirements.

Flight duration may be up to 8 hours, and the total flight and duty period may exceed 14 hours. From time to time crew will be required to work away for a period of time to support large or extended operations anywhere in Australia, or internationally. The roster will comprise two day shifts (nominally of six hours each) on base at the airport and a 12 hour night standby shift, nominally from home.

The rate of flying is expected to be low in the order of 100 flight hours per annum, with pilots maintaining flying proficiency using a Level D full flight simulator located in Melbourne.

Challenger specifications

  • Transit speed: Mach 0.74 (445 Knots True Airspeed (KTAS))  to Mach 0.8 (490 KTAS).
  • Endurance: 8 hours in normal standby configuration
  • Range: 3,086 nautical miles (5,715 kilometres)
  • ViDAR: Sentient ViDAR maritime anomaly detection software with fixed staring three-camera array means that the Challenger has an improved capacity to conduct visual searches for small targets in the water, complementing the visual searching of the crew
  • Large observer windows: Located forward of the wings, these will assist in visual search operations.
  • Air drop door: An air operable door enables the Challenger to deliver life-sustaining stores and communications equipment to those in distress.
  • Live video streaming: Able to live stream video of the situation in real time as AMSA plans the rescue operation.
  • Cost: $6-7 million, fully equipped.
Map showing range of Cobham's Challenger 604 aircraft from each of the three planned bases - Perth, Cairns and Essendon. © AMSA

Map showing range of Cobham’s Challenger 604 aircraft from each of the three planned bases – Perth, Cairns and Essendon. © AMSA

VH-ITN Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros (MSN 630638) of Westcoast Jet Fighters (HFAT Pty Ltd) at Jandakot Warbirds Aircraft Display Day, at Jandakot Airport - Sun 23 March 2014. Photo © Keith Anderson

VH-ITN Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros (MSN 630638) of Westcoast Jet Fighters (HFAT Pty Ltd) at Jandakot Warbirds Aircraft Display Day, at Jandakot Airport – Sun 23 March 2014. Photo © Keith Anderson

W1757 PZL TS-11 Iskra (MSN 3H-1916) at the Indian Air Force Museum, Palam Air Force Station, New Delhi, India - 20 December 2015. Formerly 1916 with the Polish Air Force.  Photo © David Eyre

W1757 PZL TS-11 Iskra (MSN 3H-1916) at the Indian Air Force Museum, Palam Air Force Station, New Delhi, India – 20 December 2015.
Formerly 1916 with the Polish Air Force. Photo © David Eyre

2 August 2016 © David Eyre

Westcoast Jet Fighters is considering the purchase of a Polish-designed PZL TS-11 Iskra jet trainer, due to the long-term grounding of their Czech Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros jet trainer, VH-ITN, at Jandakot Airport.

The company acquired the former Soviet Air Force L-39C in mid-2013, intending to offer jet experience flights to members of the public.

However, the 1976-build aircraft suffered persistent problems with its Russian Ivchenko AI-25TL turbofan engine, delaying its arrival at Jandakot until early 2014. It has not flown since.

Company director, Chris Hannecourt, contacted interested clients this week to assess their interest in the PZL TS-11 Iskra.

“As you know, our operations have been suspended for some time due to technical issues with our L-39 Albatros. Unfortunately, we have now exhausted all options to repair our engine and the only way forward is to replace the complete engine. Replacing the engine is a very expensive exercise and bringing the aircraft back to airworthy status has now become a long term project.

This being the case, we are considering purchasing another jet fighter to allow us to carry out adventure flights. The aircraft we are looking at is a PZL TS-11 Iskra.

Like the Albatros, it was designed to be a light attack / advanced trainer aircraft. It has mostly been used by the Polish and Indian Air forces. It is a generation older and does not look as “sexy” as the Albatros but it has very similar performance.”

A total of 424 TS-11 Iskra aircraft were built between 1963 and 1987, and these were operated by the Polish Air Force and Navy, as well as the Indian Air Force.

History of VH-ITN:

  • VH-ITN  Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatros (MSN 630638).
  • Built in 1976, at Vodochody in Czechoslovakia.
  • Delivered to the Soviet Air Force.
  • Later sold in USA and registered as N90510 John P. Christensen, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA on 4.8.2000.
  • The aircraft was thoroughly inspected and assembled by Spider Aviation, Inc. at Savannah , Georgia, USA in 2001 for an additional cost of $75,000.  They went through the aircraft from nose to tail, including cockpit refurbishment.  The front cockpit has the latest Avionics Package which includes: Garmin GNS 530 GPS/COM/NAV and Moving Map; Garmin GNS 340 Audio Panel; and Garmin GTX 327 Digital Transponder. The Red, White & Blue paint scheme, with Czech Air Force roundel, was painted by Florida Aircraft Painting of Bartow, Florida. Upon completion, the owner had invested over $340,000 in buying and refurbishing the aircraft.
  • In May 2006, the aircraft was sold to BMG Aviation, Bloomington, Indiana, USA, who reregistered the aircraft as N139LB on 14 May 2007, with the ‘LB’ in the registration denoting that as it was flown by Steve Lynn and Bob Burke.
  • The aircraft was advertised for sale in 2012 with an asking price of US$179,000, having a Total Time of 2,959 hours. It stayed registered as N139LB until 4 Sep 2012.
  • On 30 October 2012, the aircraft was registered in Australia as VH-ITN. Registered owner is HF Assets, of Queens Park, Perth, WA, but the aircraft is leased to and operated by Extreme Flying Trust, trading as Westcoast Jet Fighters.
  • By 1 December 2012, the aircraft was disassembled in Alabama, in preparation for shipping to the east coast of Australia.
  • Early 2014: Flown from Whyalla, South Australia, to Jandakot, Western Australia.

1 August 2016 © David Eyre

In an article in the Bangkok Post, Thai Lion Air is reported as planning scheduled services from Bangkok-Din Mueang via Bali to Perth .

The flights would commence early in 2017, subject to regulatory approvals.

Thai Lion Air is a low-cost airline, formed as a partnership between Lion Air (Indonesia ) and Thai companies, which commenced services on 4 December 2013 .

The airline is based at the older Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport, operating domestic and international flights. International services currently operate to China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and plans services to India, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

Thai Lion Air has has received the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) Certification, but expansion has been slowed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) red-flagging Thailand for civil aviation safety regulatory issues.

The company has a current fleet of 8 Boeing 737-800 and 15 Boeing 737-900, with another due for delivery soon.

Artist impression of Boeing 737 Max 8 in Malaysia Airlines livery. © Boeing Company

Artist impression of Boeing 737 Max 8 in Malaysia Airlines livery. © Boeing Company

9M-MXJ Boeing 737-8H6 (MSN 40137/4131) of Malaysia Airlines, at Perth Airport - Sun 3 July 2016. Flight MH121 from Kota Kinabalu, landing on runway 24 at 2:10pm. Photo © David Eyre

9M-MXJ Boeing 737-8H6 (MSN 40137/4131) of Malaysia Airlines, at Perth Airport – Sun 3 July 2016.
The 737-800s are to be replaced by 737 Max 8 aircraft from 2019. Photo © David Eyre

27 July 2016 © David Eyre

Malaysia Airlines has ordered 25 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, and taken options on a further 25 737 Max 8 or Max 9, with deliveries to start in 2019.

The new 737 Max aircraft will replace the airline’s current fleet of 56 Boeing 737-800s, which operate to Perth from Kota Kinabalu on Sundays.

The 737 Max is expected to cut operating expenditure by 15 per cent and its longer range will open up more destinations. The jets will be fitted with slimline seats as well as wi-fi connectivity.

Malaysia Airlines has been operating 737s of different versions for the past 40 years.

The order was the first major decision since Peter Bellew took over as CEO on 1 July 2016, replacing former CEO Christoph Mueller, who has joined Emirates.

Malaysia Airlines suffered huge losses, compounded when flight MH370 disappeared and flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in 2014. Following a significant restructure, the company expects to be profitable from 2018.

As part of the restructure, Mueller was appointed to restructure the airline, retiring its Boeing 777-200ER fleet and arranging to lease six Airbus A350-900s from 2018, to replace their Airbus A380s.

Malaysia Airlines also ceased all non-stop flights to Europe, other than London, and stopped some Asia Pacific flights.

The airline is reportedly considering acquiring three or four used Airbus A330-300 aircraft, and is also considering whether to order more 737-Max 9 aircraft or the Long Range version of the Airbus A321neo.

9M-MTM Airbus A330-323X (MSN 1431) of Malaysia Airlines, at Perth Airport - Mon 30 May 2016. MH125 from Kuala Lumpur, landing on runway 06 at 3:03pm. Photo © David Eyre

9M-MTM Airbus A330-323X (MSN 1431) of Malaysia Airlines, at Perth Airport – Mon 30 May 2016.
Daytime services will end on 17 November 2016, with the service moving to night time.
Photo © David Eyre

27 July 2016 © David Eyre

Malaysia Airlines is changing the flight numbers and schedule for its services between Kuala Lumpur and Perth from 18 November 2016, moving from a daytime to nighttime service, but still using Airbus A330-300 aircraft.

Current schedule: Revised schedule from 18 November 2016:
MH125 departs Kuala Lumpur 9:20 AM: arrives Perth 2:50 PM MH127 departs Kuala Lumpur 7:35 PM: arrives Perth 1:05 AM next day
MH124 departs Perth 3:50 PM: arrives Kuala Lumpur 9:30 PM MH126 departs Perth 2:10 AM: arrives Kuala Lumpur 7:40 AM
RA-2900G Cameron O-550 hot air balloon flown by Fedor Konyukhov, over Perth - Sat 23 July 2016. Passing north east along the Swan River towards Perth city at 11:44am, as he breaks the record for a solo circumnavigation of the world. He landed near Bonnie Rock at 4:30pm, after waiting for the winds to drop. Photo © David Eyre

RA-2900G Cameron O-550 hot air balloon flown by Fedor Konyukhov, over Perth – Sat 23 July 2016.
Passing north east along the Swan River towards Perth city at 11:44am, as he breaks the record for a solo circumnavigation of the world. It was at an altitude of around 19,000 feet when this photo was taken. He landed near Bonnie Rock at 4:30pm, after waiting for the winds to drop.
Photo © David Eyre

23 July 2016 © David Eyre

Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov has today set a new world record for the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth in a hot air balloon, completing the flight in 11 days and 9 hours, beating American Steve Fossett’s 2002 record of 13 days 8 hours.

After passing in an north-easterly direction over the WA coast near Fremantle, Konyukhov’s balloon passed over Perth city just before midday. On descent around 1pm, he passed over within 250 metres of the launch site at Northam – an amazing achievement for a circumnavigation balloon flight.

The balloon landed with some rough bounces at 4:30pm today, near the small town of Bonnie Rock, 116km north of Merredin, in WA’s Wheatbelt.

The support crew wanted to wait for the winds to drop to enable a safe landing in a suitable landing zone. A large crowd of spectators, including aviator Dick Smith, gathered to chase the balloon. They helped to slow it down and deflate it so that they could help Konyukhov get out of the gondola.

Unfortunately,some spectators took ‘souvenirs’, including the solar panels and the valve mechanism from the top of the balloon. Konyukhov had to ask people to return the items as the balloon is to be preserved in a specially-built museum in Moscow.

Like Fossett, Konyukhov had launched his record flight from the Western Australian town of Northam, east of Perth.

The UK-designed and built Cameron O-550 is a Roziere-type hot air balloon and had 35 propane gas cylinders fitted around the basket. It took off from Northam at 7:30am on 12 July 2016.

Steve Fossett travelled 33,000km on his flight, but Konyukhov covered more than 34,000km, after jetstream winds took his balloon close to Antarctica, where he endured  temperatures down to -56C while flying at heights of up to 10,000 metres.

Konyukhov had problems with a heater and could not cook properly, so he lost around 10 kilograms of body weight. He also suffered from lack of sleep.

The route flown by Fedor Konyukhov on his record breaking solo round the world flight.

The route flown by Fedor Konyukhov on his record breaking solo round the world flight.