Record-breaking balloonists splash down off Mexico

Pilots Troy Bradley (left) of the US and Leonid Tiukhtayev of Russia sit in the capsule of the Two Eagles balloon before their departure on Jan 25, 2015. The pair completed a world record-breaking trans-Pacific flight on Saturday after splashing down
Pilots Troy Bradley (left) of the US and Leonid Tiukhtayev of Russia sit in the capsule of the Two Eagles balloon before their departure on Jan 25, 2015. The pair completed a world record-breaking trans-Pacific flight on Saturday after splashing down safely off the coast of Mexico, organisers of the epic voyage said. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Two balloonists completed a world record-breaking trans-Pacific flight on Saturday after splashing down safely off the coast of Mexico, organisers of the epic voyage said.

Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev made a controlled descent 6.4km off the coast of Baja California near La Poza Grande after a change in winds made a landing at sea a "more prudent" option than landing onshore.

"Mexican authorities are cooperating fully and the Coast Guard is enroute to the balloon. We anticipate they will tow the capsule to shore," a statement from the Two Eagles team said.

The statement emphasised that the watery landing would not impact the validity of the balloonists record-breaking feat.

"A water landing is acceptable under the international rules governing the establishment of world records," the statement said, noting that two recognised around-the-world records also ended at sea.

The voyage, which began in Japan, had already surpassed the previous records for the longest distance covered in a gas-filled balloon, 8,467km and the previous duration record of 137 hours, five minutes and 50 seconds.

Bradley and Tiukhtyaev's odyssey was eventually timed at 160 hours and 37 minutes at a distance of 10,696km, according to the Two Eagles team.

Filled with 10,000 cubic meters of helium, and capable of staying aloft for 10 days, Two Eagles departed Saturday from Saga, southern Japan, and sailed over Tokyo at night before heading out across the wide Pacific.

Bradley, 50, an American, and Tiukhtyaev, 58, from Russia, had planned to land in the vicinity of the Canada-US border, but set course for Baja California instead to avoid a ridge of high pressure off the US west coast.

The duo were the first to attempt a trans-Pacific balloon crossing since 1981.

The previous record for the longest distance ever travelled in a balloon was set in 1981 by Double Eagle V, the first gas-filled balloon to cross the Pacific Ocean from Nagashima, Japan to northwestern California.

The duration record was established three years earlier when Double Eagle II became the first balloon to traverse the Atlantic, from the northeastern US state of Maine to a farmer's field outside Paris.

Two Eagles was named in honour of those two craft.

The unpressurized, 100kg Kevlar and carbon-fiber capsule which carried Bradley and Tiukhtyaev is described by the expedition as smaller than a king-sized bed, with freeze-dried food sharing space with state-of-the-art electronics.