Two Eagles Press Archive

 
January 31, 2015

The Two Eagles balloon team is pleased to report the Two Eagles balloon has landed safely just off the Baja coast near La Poza Grande.

The pilots made a controlled descent to a gentle water landing about four miles off the Baja coast. The balloon is stable and still inflated and the pilots are fine.

Winds at the lower levels turned parallel to the coast, which made it more prudent for the pilots to execute a landing in the water. Mexican authorities are cooperating fully and the Coast Guard is enroute to the balloon. We anticipate they will tow the capsule to shore.

We would note that a water landing is acceptable under the international rules governing the establishment of world records. Two around-the-world attempts using a different type of balloon landed in the water and were approved as records.

Landing occurred at six days, 16 hours and 37 minutes into the mission (approximately 7:01 AM MST or 1400 UTC) at a distance of 6,646 miles (10,696 km).

January 30, 2015

Two Eagles Bests Duration Record

Albuquerque, NM, Thursday, 1/30/15 8:55 AM MST (1555 UTC))

At 7:29 this morning MST (1429 UTC), the Two Eagles balloon passed the absolute world record for time aloft (duration) for gas balloons of 137 hours, 5 minutes, 50 seconds, set by Double Eagle II on its transatlantic flight in 1978. As noted previously, under the rules established for the Fédèration Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the international air sports federation, an established record must be beaten by at least 1% of the previous distance. This mark was reached at 8:51 AM MST (1551 UTC).

We would note that the Two Eagles team has not “broken the record.” That will be determined by the U.S. National Aeronautic Association, followed by the FAI, after a meticulous process of documentation and review that may take several weeks or months.

In Mission Control, the surpassing of the duration mark was almost a non-event, with just the early morning support team on hand. A slightly larger group had assembled by the time the team passed the 1% distance needed to establish a new record. But the team is now fully focused on the final and most important task: landing the balloon safely after a successful crossing of the Pacific Ocean.

The team is making good progress in its flight parallel to the west coast of the United States and is now approximately 400 miles west of the Mexican border. It is still expected the landing will occur tomorrow (Saturday) morning on the Baja peninsula in Mexico. Pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev (two-kh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley and the Mission Control team will be very busy during the final hours of the flight using winds at different altitudes to steer the balloon to a safe landing in Baja.

January 29, 2015

Two Eagles Surpasses Record Distance

Albuquerque, NM, Thursday, 1/29/15 5:30 PM MST (0030 UTC)

In the past few hours, the Two Eagles balloon piloted by American Troy Bradley and Russian Leonid Tiukhtyaev (two-kh-TIE-yev) has passed two major milestones in its quest to establish new world distance and duration records for gas balloons.

At 2:53 this afternoon MST (2153 UTC), five days and five minutes into their flight, the Two Eagles balloon passed the 5,209-mile (8,383 km) mark in its transpacific journey. This surpasses the distance flown by Double Eagle V in 1981 to set the distance record for gas balloons. However, under the rules established for the Fédèration Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the international air sports federation, an established record must be beaten by at least 1% of the previous distance. At 5:16 PM MST (0016 UTC), Two Eagles passed through the 5,260 mile (8,467 km) mark, besting the distance required to establish a new record.

We would note that the Two Eagles team has not “broken the record.” That will be determined by the U.S. National Aeronautic Association, followed by the FAI, after a meticulous process of documentation and review that may take several weeks or months.

The next milestone will be the gas balloon world record for time aloft (duration). The existing record of 137 hours, five minutes, and 50 seconds was set by the Double Eagle II in 1978. Two Eagles should pass that milestone at about 8:50 AM tomorrow morning Albuquerque time (1550 UTC).

The team passed the 5,209 mark right before the regular 3 PM media briefing at Mission Control at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque, so a large group of media and spectators were on hand to see the team eclipse Double Eagle V’s distance. A smaller group at Mission Control gave a quiet cheer when the balloon surpassed the 5,260 mark.

While the pilots and team are excited about these accomplishments, they remain focused on the most important objective of all – a safe landing after a successful crossing of the Pacific Ocean. The balloon continues to move south along the California Coast, with a landing anticipated in Baja California sometime on Saturday.

Watch for our updates at www.twoeaglesballoonteam.com and our myriad social media sites. We’d also note that the Balloon Museum will be open daily 9 AM – 5 PM with free admission for the duration of the flight. We anticipate that for most of the flight visitors will be able to view the Mission Control Center as a “living exhibit” into the workings of a major long-distance balloon expedition.

January 29, 2015

Change in Course in Store for Two Eagles Balloon

Albuquerque, NM, Tuesday, 1/29/15 11:00 AM MST (1800 UTC)

The Two Eagles balloon and pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev (two-kh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley remain on track to complete their crossing of the Pacific Ocean and set new world distance and duration records for gas balloons. Only, it isn’t quite the track we announced last night.

The team’s original strategy was to travel north along a strong “blocking” high pressure ridge off the U.S. West Coast and swing inland in southern Canada. Due to changes in the weather pattern, this option is now less attractive. At the moment, the balloon is tracking slowly to the east toward California, but as it approaches the high pressure ridge the balloon will not be able to continue that direction for much longer. Think of it as hitting a wall: It will have to go left or right.

In the next hours, the balloon will change altitude and begin tracking south (right) towards a landing anticipated for Baja California on Saturday. This southern track has been present for some time and was considered as an option earlier in the flight, but was ruled out because of concerns about convective activity (storms) in that area. This turns out to have been a good decision, because if the balloon had taken that course it would have indeed run into bad weather. With the delay caused by the detour north, the balloon should have good weather coming into the Mexican coast.

Changing weather conditions are expected in the course of any long-distance balloon flight, and the pilots and the Mission Control team are well-equipped to handle such changes. The pilots are in good shape but understandably getting tired after nearly five days in the air. They are working closely with Mission Control in making decisions related to the course of the flight.

Watch for our updates at www.twoeaglesballoonteam.com and our myriad social media sites. We’d also note that the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, site of Mission Control will be open daily 9 AM – 5 PM with free admission for the duration of the flight. We anticipate that for most of the flight visitors will be able to view the Mission Control Center as a “living exhibit” into the workings of a major long-distance balloon expedition.

January 28, 2015

Mission Control Update: Approach to North American Coast Thursday Evening

Albuquerque, NM, Tuesday, 1/28/15 11:30 AM MST (1830 UTC)

It now looks like the Two Eagles balloon, with pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev (two-kh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley, will cross into North America on Thursday evening.

At a press conference within the hour in Albuquerque, Mission Control Director Dr. Steve Shope said that the current forecast trajectories put Two Eagles over land somewhere around Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, in the early evening Albuquerque time (early morning Friday UTC). From there, the pilots plan to fly on inland on a track that should eventually curve back into the northern United States.

To break the distance record of 5,208 miles (8,383 km), the team will have to travel at least 100 miles past the coast. The “finish line,” so to speak, for the quest to best the record would be somewhere in the vicinity of Penticton or Kelowna in British Colombia. With this goal accomplished, the team currently plans to fly through the day Friday and will probably then plan for a landing early Saturday morning in the northern United States. The best conditions for landing this very large (350,000 cubic ft./9,911 cubic meter) balloon are calm surface winds in an open area.

The balloon’s speed, as expected, has slowed considerably as the balloon enters calmer winds associated with a high pressure system along the West Coast. At this writing the balloon is west of northern California, and the team meteorologist, Luc Truellmans, predicts the ridge will continue to pull the balloon north and then east into Canada.

Watch for our updates at www.twoeaglesballoonteam.com and our myriad social media sites. We’d also note that the Balloon Museum will be open daily 9 AM – 5 PM with free admission for the duration of the flight. We anticipate that for most of the flight visitors will be able to view the Mission Control Center as a “living exhibit” into the workings of a major long-distance balloon expedition.

Apologies to Our Friends in Hawaii (Our 50th State!)

Albuquerque, NM, Tuesday, 1/28/15 11:30 AM MST (1830 UTC)

Our apologies to those in Hawaii who pointed out in response to our headline earlier today about the “balloon approaching the United States” that Hawaii IS in the United States! We can only plead fatigue for this obvious goof, and have corrected the web posting. And, we feel your pain. There are a fair number of people who don’t believe New Mexico is in the United States either. (To the point where New Mexico Magazine had a regular column called "One of Our Fifty is Missing!")

January 28, 2015

Two Eagles Balloon Heads Towards Continental U.S. and Records

Albuquerque, NM, Tuesday, 1/28/15 11:30 AM MST (1830 UTC)

Two Eagles as seen from below

In the past few hours, the video display in the Two Eagles Control Center has switched from using Hawaii as a reference point for distance to using cities in the continental United States. It suddenly seems very real that the balloon, with pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev (two-kh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley, is nearing its first goal – the first successful crossing of the Pacific Ocean by gas balloon since 1981.

The predicted swing to the northeast continues, as the balloon tracks into changing weather patterns off the coast of the United States. As expected, their speed has slowed somewhat, from the average 50+ mph (80+ kph) speeds achieved earlier in the flight. The current trajectories suggest the balloon may cross the North American coast in southern Canada, possibly around Vancouver Island, sometime on Thursday or Friday. The pilots and support team are assessing all of the factors involved, including weather, landing conditions, and remaining resources (gas and sand ballast for maneuvering), to determine how far inland they might choose to fly.

The team is still more than 45 hours from besting the world gas balloon duration record of 137 hours, 5 minutes, 50 seconds (about 5 days and 17 hours) set in 1978 during the transatlantic flight of the Double Eagle II. This would occur sometime around 8:45 AM (1530 UTC) on Friday. The distance record is 5,208 miles (8,383 km), set during the Double Eagle V transpacific flight in 1981. The international rules for setting aviation records specify that the current records would have to be exceeded by 1% in order for a new record to be ratified.

The team has been very busy flying the balloon during the last 12 hours as the weather pattern changes, in order to maintain a speed and direction conducive to catching the best winds to steer into the coast. Things continue to go well with the team and the balloon is flying well.

Watch for our updates at www.twoeaglesballoonteam.com and our myriad social media sites. We’d also note that the Balloon Museum will be open daily 9 AM – 5 PM with free admission for the duration of the flight. We anticipate that for most of the flight visitors will be able to view the Mission Control Center as a “living exhibit” into the workings of a major long-distance balloon expedition.

January 27, 2015

Two Eagles Balloonists Set “Personal Best” Marks

Albuquerque, NM, Tuesday, 1/27/15 9:15 PM MST (0430 UTC)

Two Eagles balloon pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev and Troy Bradley, in their communications today with Mission Control, continue to be update about the progress of the flight. Troy has called it the most comfortable gas balloon flight he’s ever made (and he’s made dozens). But tonight, the pilots can congratulate themselves for reaching some personal milestones.

Both pilots have set new “personal bests” for distance in a gas balloon flight. Leonid’s previous longest flight was 2,503 km (about 1,552 miles), set in the America’s Challenge race in 2012, when he flew with Wilhelm Eimers from Albuquerque to Elkton, VA. Troy flew the Atlantic with the late Richard Abruzzo from Bangor, Maine to Morocco during the Chrysler Transatlantic Challenge in 1992, travelling 5,340 km (3,318 miles). At this writing, Two Eagles has flown 6,796 km (4,223 miles), and is nowhere near the end of its journey.

It’s also Leonid’s longest flight in terms of duration. His 2012 America’s Challenge flight was 61.3 hours, and the Two Eagles Team has already been aloft for more than 78 hours. Troy’s transatlantic flight in 1992, made in a different type of balloon lasted longer than 144 hours.

The team is well on its way to adding some world records to their personal bests. World records are subject to a detailed ratification process, but they’re hoping to capture the distance record for gas balloons of 8,383 km (5,208 miles), and also possibly break the duration record of 137 hours, five minutes (5 days, 17 hours, five minutes).

Meanwhile, the sun has set and night is falling northeast of Hawaii. The balloon has begun its swing to the northeast, in anticipation of a possible landfall in southern Canada. They’ve been positively clipping along almost all day, at times reaching speeds in the 70-80 mph range (61-70 knots).

Headed Toward Morning: Two Eagles Passes 3,600-Mile (5,794 km) Mark

Albuquerque, NM, Monday, 1/27/15 10:15 AM MST (1715 UTC)

It has been an uneventful night aboard the Two Eagles balloon over the Pacific and at the Mission Control Center at the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque, NM. At this writing, the team has been aloft nearly three days and are near the two-thirds mark in their journey across the Pacific Ocean.

Two Eagles view of Mt Fuji

We’re slowly receiving a few photos from pilots Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev (two-kh-TIE-yev), as they have time to transmit them. This latest photo was taken with a GoPro camera from the capsule looking up at the balloon envelope (the “balloon” part of the balloon). The blue line coming almost straight down at the camera pulls the valve at the top of the balloon that releases gas for maneuvering. The red line goes to the deflation ports that will be used to deflate the balloon on landing. The red circle of fabric around the inside of the envelope deflects moisture from any condensation that runs off the envelope away from the capsule.

Two Eagles as seen from below

Leonid and Troy are about to experience another of those glorious Pacific sunrises from their current altitude of about 16,500 feet (about 5,000 meters). The balloon passed about 50 miles north of Midway last night and will be tracking north of Hawaii in the next ten or so hours. The pilots have told Mission Director Dr. Steve Shope that this is one of the most comfortable gas balloon flights they’ve ever made.

Sunrise over the Pacific

We will, of course, continue to update you on the flight’s progress at here and our myriad social media sites. We’d also note that the Balloon Museum will be open daily 9 AM – 5 PM with free admission for the duration of the flight. We anticipate that for most of the flight visitors will be able to view the Mission Control Center as a “living exhibit” into the workings of a major long-distance balloon expedition.

January 26, 2015

Mission Control Receives First Photo from Capsule

Albuquerque, NM, Monday, 1/26/15 9:30 PM MST (Tuesday 0430 UTC)

The Mission Control Center at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque is getting its first look at the spectacular vistas over the Pacific Ocean being enjoyed by Two Eagles pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev (two-kh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley.

Two Eagles balloon over the Pacific Ocean

The crew sent a photo this evening taken from a very wide angle GoPro camera. It was taken from the top of the capsule, with the hatch visible at the very bottom of the picture. The colorful cords which are visible hanging down from the top of the picture hold sandbags that hang below the capsule. The color coding helps the pilots keep track of how much ballast (expendable weight) they’ve used in the course of the flight.

In conversations with Mission Control earlier today, both pilots talked about the spectacular ocean sunrises and sunsets. Troy described the low-level puffy fair-weather cumulus clouds between the balloon and the ocean.

So far, it has been a spectacular ride for the Two Eagles pilots. They’re headed into another one of those picture-book sunsets and are to the northwest of Midway Island. They’re approaching the 2,900 mile (4,637 km) mark on their transpacific quest to set a new distance record for gas balloons. The current record is 5,208 miles (8,383 km).

We know we’ve been behind on our social media posts, but are now getting them caught up. We’re trying to keep them in sequence as much as possible, but a few of the past posts may be out of order. We will, of course, continue to update you on the flight’s progress at www.twoeaglesballoonteam.com and our myriad social media sites. We’d also note that the Balloon Museum will be open daily 9 AM – 5 PM with free admission for the duration of the flight. We anticipate that for most of the flight visitors will be able to view the Mission Control Center as a “living exhibit” into the workings of a major long-distance balloon expedition.

Pilots’ Appraisal of Flight: “Wonderful So Far”

Albuquerque, NM, Monday, 1/26/15 6:30 PM MST (Tuesday 0130 UTC)

In a conversation today with the Two Eagles Mission Control Center in Albuquerque that will soon be posted on social media, Two Eagles balloon pilot Troy Bradley told the support team on duty that he and fellow pilot Leonid Tiukhtyaev (two-kh-TIE-yev) are “having a wonderful time,” on their quest to cross the Pacific Ocean and set a new distance record for gas balloons.

During a “beautiful sunrise” over the Pacific, Troy said the pilots are feeling fine, had a good night’s sleep, and the balloon is “flying beautifully”. He was especially enthusiastic about the flight across Japan, describing seeing Mt. Fuji at sunset and the nighttime overflight of Tokyo, a sight very few people will ever get to see from a balloon. He thanked the dozens of volunteers in Japan who assisted with the launch and the air traffic controllers for their incredible cooperation while the balloon was in Japanese airspace. Of the Japanese people, he said, “We couldn’t have done it without them.” He also thanked the support team in Albuquerque and elsewhere, saying, “I can’t imagine a better flight and a better team.”

Meanwhile, the team has passed a major milestone: the halfway mark towards besting the distance record. They’ve now been aloft more than two days and traveled more than 2,700 miles (4,345 km). They will soon cross the International Date Line (Anti-Meridian) and should pass fairly close to Midway Island.

In Albuquerque, Troy’s wife Tami and daughter Savannah, just back from Japan, paid a visit to Mission Control at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum and filled in a couple of additional details. The team is carrying a few good luck charms on the flight: a silver dollar sewed into a load tape of the balloon by master balloon builder and Launchmaster Bert Padelt (his tradition for balloons built for record attempts), good-luck bears for Savannah and son Bobby, and a commemorative coin from the first successful transatlantic balloon flight, Double Eagle II. Leonid brought aboard a traditional Russian icon and a sticker from the Russian Records Factory, which supports his balloon and airship record flights. The people of Saga provided several traditional talismans that are being carried aboard the balloon. And, also making the flight, some ashes of Troy’s grandfather and ballooning mentor Jim Dutrow who passed away last September.

We’ll continue to update you on the flight’s progress at www.twoeaglesballoonteam.com and our myriad social media sites. We’d also note that the Balloon Museum will be open daily 9 AM – 5 PM with free admission for the duration of the flight. We anticipate that for most of the flight visitors will be able to view the Mission Control Center as a “living exhibit” into the workings of a major long-distance balloon expedition.

January 26, 2015

Two Eagles Flight Update

Albuquerque, NM, Sunday, 1/25/15 10:30 PM MST (Monday 0530 UTC)

The Two Eagles balloon, with pilots Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev aboard, continues to streak eastward as sunset approaches in the western Pacific. They’ve been averaging more than 50 miles per hour (about 44 knots or 80 kph) since the beginning of their flight some 32 hours ago, and have now covered nearly 1,700 miles (2,736 km) and have been flying at an altitude of about 17,500 feet (5,340 meters). They’re past the one-quarter mark in their quest to best the distance record for gas balloons of 5,208 miles (8,383 km).

January 25, 2015

Two Eagles and Gas Ballooning 101

Albuquerque, NM, Sunday, 1/25/15 2:30 PM MST (2130 UTC)

As the sun rises in the western Pacific, the Two Eagles balloon and pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev (two-kh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley have now been aloft a full day and are more than a fifth of the way towards their goal of setting a new distance record for gas balloons. At this writing, Two Eagles has traveled 1,183 miles (1,904 km) and has been averaging between 50 and 60 MPH (43 and 52 knots or 80.5 – 96.5 kph). After crusing between 15,000 and 16,000 feet (about 4,500 – 4,900 meters) for most of the night, they have increased their altitude to above 18,000 feet (5,486 meters).

As the Two Eagles balloon continues its trek across the Pacific Ocean, flying the balloon will be a full-time job for pilots. The gas balloon they are flying is very different from the hot-air balloons that most people may be familiar with from events like the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the Saga International Balloon Fiesta, and the Lorraine Mondial Air Balloons event in France.

Gas balloons use a lighter than air gas such as helium or hydrogen to provide lift. This particular balloon was filled with helium at the beginning of the flight, and the helium has to last all the way across the Pacific. After all, there are no mid-air helium refueling stations in the middle of the ocean!

The balloon loses gas in the course of the flight, because the balloon over-pressurizes and “burps” gas through an opening (appendix) at the bottom of the balloon as it heats during the day, and because the pilots release gas to maneuver. Therefore, in order for the balloon to maintain altitude, the pilots have to get rid of weight. For that purpose, the pilots carry expendable weight, called “ballast,” in the form of sand, carried in big bags that hang outside the capsule. Two Eagles took off with almost five tons of sand (9,360 pounds or 4,246 kg), contained in 40-pound bags.

You might think of the combination of gas and ballast as fuel. If the pilots want to go up, they get rid of ballast. To come down, they can open a valve at the top of the balloon to release gas. Because valving and ballasting are the equivalent of burning fuel, the pilots try to do as little of both as possible. Loss of gas and ballast equals loss of duration (potential time aloft) and, therefore, distance.

The balloon is also affected by solar heating. In the early morning as the sun comes up, it heats the gas inside the balloon, which causes it to expand and provides lift. The pilots in essence get a “free ride” to a higher altitude without having to expend ballast. As the sun goes down, the process reverses. The gas contracts, which causes the balloon to come down. In order to maintain altitude, the pilots have to ballast.

For the next several days over the Pacific, Bradley and Tiukhtyaev will use this combination of solar heating and cooling, ballasting, and valving gas to steer the balloon. Wind direction and speed varies with altitude, and so the pilots will ascend and descend to find winds that will take them where they want to go.

January 25, 2015

Two Eagles Begins Journey Across the Pacific

Albuquerque, NM, Sunday, 1/25/15 10:00 AM MST (1700 UTC)

After flying over Japan for most of the first day of their flight, the Two Eagles balloon has swung eastward and begun its transit of the Pacific Ocean to North America. Pilots Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev (two-kh-TIE-yev) spent the time over land making sure all systems are “go” and that the balloon is performing well and ready for its long over-water journey. It is expected it will take about five and a half days for the balloon to make the crossing.

The balloon crossed over the coast of Japan over the city of Kashima this morning at about 4:00 AM Albuquerque time (1100 UTC), or 8 PM Sunday in Japan. At the time they were at 21,000 feet (6,400 meters), and traveling 63 mph (58 kt).

At this writing it is night in the western Pacific and the flight is going well. The balloon is traveling east at about 56 mph (49 kts) at an altitude of more than 15,000 ft. (4,700 meters). The pilots are sleeping in shifts after many intense hours of maneuvering over Japan. They and the Mission Control team thank the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau and Japanese air traffic controllers for their extraordinary help and cooperation while the balloon travelled through Japanese airspace. They also once again thank the dozens of volunteers who helped with the launch and the citizens of Saga, Japan for their hospitality over many weeks during the preparation of the Two Eagles project.

You can follow the balloon’s progress across the ocean in pursuit of the world distance record for gas balloons by visiting the Flight Status page.

January 24, 2015

Two Eagles Heads Towards the Pacific

Albuquerque, NM, Saturday, 1/24/15 8:00 PM MST and Saga, Japan, Sunday, 1/25/15 12:00 PM JST (0300 UTC)

The Two Eagles balloon and pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev and Troy Bradley are tracking to the northeast across Japan in the early stages of their attempt to cross the Pacific Ocean and set a new distance record for gas balloons.

The inflation in the wee hours of Sunday morning in Saga, Japan (Saturday morning and early afternoon in Albuquerque) was “textbook,” in the words of one member of the crew in Saga. After a brief delay to allow gusty winds at the launch site to settle, the pilots waved goodbye to family and friends and climbed into the capsule. As is tradition, the national anthems of the pilots’ home countries, Russia and the United States, as well as the anthem of Japan, were played as the balloon rose slowly and majestically into the night sky to the cheers of spectators and support crew on both sides of the Pacific, in Saga and in Mission Control in Albuquerque.

At this writing the balloon is flying at an altitude of around 18,000 feet (5500 meters) at a speed of 50 mph (45 kts). At this rate, the balloon should exit Japan and head out over the Pacific in about 10 hours. However, due to the natural contraction of the gas in the balloon as it flies into the evening, the balloon may change altitude, and the trajectory and speed may vary in the overnight hours. The transit of the Pacific is expected to take five to six days.

The ground support specialists at the Mission Control Center at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum have been talking to the team, and they are in good spirits and looking forward to a safe and successful flight. Mission Control will be staffed around the clock until the balloon lands. The Balloon Museum will be open from 9 AM-5PM seven days per week with free admission for the duration of the flight.

The mission web site includes these regular updates and live, real-time tracking of the balloon’s position – go to “View Current Flight Status” for updates and then “Follow the Flight” to access live tracking. Our social media sites include photos, blogs, posts, and more! If you spot Two Eagles in the sky, we hope you’ll share your photos with us – simply post to #ICTwoEagles on any of our social media platforms!

January 24, 2015

Two Eagles Go for Launch

Albuquerque, NM, Saturday, 1/24/15 12:00 PM MST (1900 UTC) and Saga, Japan, Sunday, 1/25/15 4:00 AM JST

Two Eagles Balloon pilots Leonid Tuikhtyaev (two-kuh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley are in the capsule in the final stages of preparing for launch. Live streaming from the launch site is now available at the Two Eagles website, www.twoeaglesballoonteam.com. To view, click on the “Latest News” tab at the upper right of the home page.

At a just-completed press conference in Albuquerque hosted by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, Mission Control Director Dr. Steve Shope told the media and guests at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum that inflation has been completed and the team is going through its detailed final checks prior to launch. Ground winds have picked up on the launch site in Saga, Japan, which may cause a short delay. The weather team is confident that the winds will drop in the next couple of hours and allow for a successful launch.

The balloon is being filled to about 60% of capacity and will initially ascend to an altitude of about 18,000 feet (about 5500 meters). Liftoff weight will be about 13,000 pounds (about 5,900 kg). Their initial trajectory should take the balloon east on a journey that should last about five and one-half days.

January 21, 2015

Two Eagles Team Eyeing Possible Launch Opportunity

Albuquerque, NM, Wednesday, 1/21/15 9:30 PM MST and Saga, Japan, Thursday, 1/22/15 1:30 PM JST (0430 UTC):

For the past couple of days, Two Eagles balloon pilots Leonid Tuikhtyaev (two-kuh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley and their support team have been studying a developing weather pattern that shows some promise for a transpacific flight. If this weather scenario continues to develop, the team may be able to launch from Saga, Japan on Saturday or Sunday Japanese time (Friday-Saturday in Albuquerque).

While it is still too early to tell whether the weather will remain favorable, the team is cautiously optimistic. If the pattern continues to develop favorably, the launch team in Japan and the support team at Mission Control in Albuquerque will begin preparations for a weekend attempt. In the meantime, a skeleton crew has remained on station in Mission Control at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum to answer visitors’ questions and provide support if needed.

Once off the ground, the Two Eagles balloon team will attempt to break the world gas balloon distance record of 5,208 miles (8,383 km) by flying across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to North America. They may also be able to break the gas balloon duration record of nearly 138 hours (5 days, 18 hours) set in 1978 during the first successful transatlantic balloon crossing by the crew of Double Eagle II.

January 17, 2015

Still Watching, Still Waiting . . .

Albuquerque, NM, and Saga, Japan (1/17/15 5 PM MST and 1/18/15 9 AM JST (0000 UTC):

Not much has changed with the Two Eagles balloon team’s attempt to break the world gas balloon distance record of 5,208 miles (8,383 km) by flying across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to North America. Weather conditions are still unfavorable and are unlikely to improve for the next few days.

Pilots Leonid Tuikhtyaev (two-kuh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley and their launch team remain on station in Saga, Japan. They and members of the Mission Control team based in the U.S. regularly receive updated weather information from meteorologist Luc Truellmans and run projected trajectories mapping possible routes across the Pacific. The challenge has been to find the right conditions for all phases of the flight: very light winds in Saga for the inflation and launch, speedy winds with no storms for the transit of the Pacific, and calm conditions for a landing in North America, preferably in the southern half of the United States.

The Mission Control team is headquartered at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, and their command center is open to public viewing as a “living exhibit” where visitors can see an operational ground support center for a major manned balloon flight. The Museum will be closed on Monday, January 19, which is a federal (bank) holiday in the U.S. honoring human rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The team can launch as late as February 10, so there is still time for weather systems to develop that would provide better conditions for a safe and successful flight.

January 13, 2015

Sudden Weather Changes Delay Two Eagles Launch

Albuquerque, NM and Saga, Japan (1/13 6:00 AM MST/1300 UTC/10 PM JST):

The Two Eagles balloon team at the launch site in Saga, Japan and Mission Control in Albuquerque, NM is standing down for a few days after unexpected and sudden changes in the weather scrubbed plans to launch the attempt by American pilot Troy Bradley and Russian pilot Leonid Tiukhtyaev to fly their gas balloon across the Pacific. Rain is expected at the launch site, and the crew in Japan is packing the balloon to get it out of the weather. Although conditions are always subject to change, the launch delay will probably be several days.

Mission Control Director Dr. Steve Shope issued the following update to the Mission Control team this morning:

I am sorry to report that the planned launch for 17Z this morning is scrubbed due to a triple combination of:

Ground winds at the launch site

Cloud cover with potential icing near Japan

Trajectories into the NW USA with cloud cover to 25,000 ft at landfall

 We are all surprised as how quickly this situation changed. Troy and Leonid asked me pass their regrets onto the team and to let you know they greatly appreciate all of the hard work the team has been doing to make this flight possible.

We are standing by to get a new launch and flight window and I will keep you updated as new information comes in. It will likely be several days at a minimum – however, as we all know this is subject to change.

Such delays are not uncommon when attempting long-distance balloon flights of this type, since the flight can be affected by weather spanning distances of several thousand miles. Once able to launch, Bradley and Tiukhtyaev will attempt to break the gas balloon distance record of 5,208 miles (8,383 km) set in 1981 by the crew of the Double Eagle V. A launch can be attempted through February 10 (with a flight that could last up until the 20th).

The pilots and team thank our many friends throughout the world for their understanding and support. We will, of course, keep you posted on further developments, but do not plan another update from Mission Control until our next launch opportunity develops.

January 12, 2015

Two Eagles Team “Cautiously Optimistic” About Tuesday Morning Launch

Albuquerque, NM: -- The launch crew is assembling in Saga, Japan, and the Mission Control team is gathering in Albuquerque in anticipation of a possible Tuesday launch of the Two Eagles transpacific balloon flight.

At a Monday afternoon press conference (3 PM MST, 2200 UTC, 7 AM JST), Mission Control Director Steve Shope said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Leonid Tiukhtyaev (Two-kh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley will be able to lift off in the next 24 hours. If favorable conditions persist, the team will move towards beginning inflation of the giant 350,000 cubic foot (9,911 cubic meter) balloon at approximately 7 AM MST on Tuesday (11 PM in Japan). The inflation process is expected to take around four hours, with a launch possible anytime after 11AM MST (3 AM JST or 1800Z). We anticipate releasing a further update sometime around 6:30 AM MST 1/13 (1330 UTC or 10:30 PM in Japan).

The first part of the balloon’s track will take it over land, which will give Bradley and Tiukhtyaev time to check out their equipment and make sure the balloon is performing as expected before venturing out over water. Early forecasts are that the transit of the Pacific will take five to six days.

The goal of the flight is to set a new distance record for straight gas balloons (balloons solely using a lighter-than-air gas like helium for lift). The current record of 8,382.54 km / 5,208 mi was set by the Double Eagle V Albuquerque-based team of Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman, Ron Clark, and Rocky Aoki in 1981 during the only previous manned gas balloon transpacific crossing. The team would also like to best another hallowed world record: the gas balloon duration record set in 1978 by Abruzzo, Newman, and Maxie Anderson aboard Double Eagle II. They stayed aloft 137 hours (five days, 17 hours), 5 minutes and 50 seconds during their history-making flight, the first successful transatlantic crossing by balloon.

The Mission Control Center will be fully operational later this evening and we are in the process of updating the Two Eagles website, www.twoeaglesballoonteam.com. We anticipate live streaming of the activities at the launch site will begin around 10 PM MDT (0500 UTC). Once the balloon launches, we will provide live tracking of the balloon’s position along with our regular updates from Mission Control.

January 11, 2015

For Immediate Release
Contacts: Kim Vesely and Letitia Hill: media@twoeaglesballoonteam.com

Media and Public Advisory

Helium in Saga

Albuquerque, NM, 4 PM MST (8 AM JST/2300 UTC):

The Two Eagles Mission Control team will hold a press briefing at 3 PM MST on Monday, January 12, 2015 at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. Mission Control Director Dr. Steve Shope will provide an update on the launch status of the Two Eagles balloon flight, Leonid Tiukhtyaev (Two-kh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley’s attempt at a record-breaking gas balloon crossing of the Pacific Ocean from Japan to North America. The Two Eagles Mission Control team members will be available for questions. As noted in our last update, the next opportunity for a launch is Tuesday morning Albuquerque time (overnight Tuesday-Wednesday in Japan or Tuesday afternoon/evening UTC).

The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum will be open on Monday, January 12 (we had previously announced they would close Monday). The Museum, which hosts the Two Eagles Mission Control Center, will open seven days a week from 9 AM to 5 PM, with free admission, through the end of the flight. The Museum is hosting the Mission Control Center as a “living exhibit,” where visitors can see a ground control center for a major balloon flight in action. The Mission Control Center is just steps away from the original Double Eagle V gondola in which four men (three from Albuquerque) made the first manned crossing of the Pacific. The Two Eagles Team thanks the City of Albuquerque and the staff of the Museum for their hospitality.

January 10, 2015

For Immediate Release
Contacts: Kim Vesely and Letitia Hill: media@twoeaglesballoonteam.com

Next Two Eagles Launch Opportunity: Early Next Week

Helium in Saga

Albuquerque, NM and Saga, Japan (1/9 7:00 PM MST, 1/10 11AM JST and 0200Z): The Two Eagles Balloon Team and pilots Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev will have another couple of days before their next opportunity to launch their quest to cross the Pacific Ocean and capture the straight gas balloon distance record.

The launch remains “on hold,” due to the availability of tube trailers to deliver gas to the launch site due to other industrial needs in the surrounding area. The team understands the gas supplier has other customers and the team is of course willing to work with our supplier as others gas users are.

Two Eagles Mission Control Director Dr. Steve Shope says the next opportunity for inflation and launch will be overnight Tuesday-Wednesday in Saga, or next Tuesday morning January 13 in Albuquerque (early afternoon UTC). We will of course update you as soon as we have more definitive information, probably early next week.

January 08, 2015 (PM)

For Immediate Release
Contacts: Kim Vesely and Letitia Hill: media@twoeaglesballoonteam.com

Waiting for Better Weather: The Two Eagles Team Remains “On Hold”

Albuquerque, NM and Saga, Japan, 5:00 PM MST (0000Z): The Two Eagles balloon team is continuing to rest and regroup in Saga, Japan, after the decision to delay the inflation of the Two Eagles balloon. Meteorologist Luc Truellmans and the Two Eagles team are aggressively reviewing weather models to determine when the next opportunity for a launch might occur. The next update from the Two Eagles team should come sometime Friday morning Albuquerque time (MST), which is 16 hours behind Saga and seven hours behind GMT (Zulu).

At a briefing at the Mission Control Center on Tuesday, Dr. Steve Shope, the Command Center Director, said that while weather conditions are ideal in the transit from Japan to Hawaii, the picture from Hawaii on in to North America is much more uncertain. The track beyond Hawaii features slow winds and a swing northward to the Pacific Northwest, with rainy weather possible during the latter stages of the flight. The trip would also take nine to ten days, pushing the balloon to the outer limits of its capabilities and leaving no margin for error.

Pilots Leonid Tuikhtyaev and Troy Bradley have always considered safety to be paramount in their planning of the flight. Troy clearly indicated today that under the existing weather conditions it would be very difficult for the team to break the gas balloon distance record of 5,208 miles and present an unwarranted risk to the pilots and the mission.

The team can launch as late as February 20, so there is ample time for weather systems to develop that would provide better conditions for a safe and successful flight.

January 08, 2015 (AM)

For Immediate Release
Contacts: Kim Vesely and Letitia Hill: media@twoeaglesballoonteam.com

Two Eagles Launch Postponed

Two Eagles laid out for inflation

Albuquerque, NM and Saga, Japan, 9:30 AM MST (1630Z): Pilots Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev and the Two Eagles Balloon Team, after looking at weather conditions, have decided to delay the inflation of the Two Eagles balloon. The team is getting some sleep and will regroup later today to determine whether a launch is possible at this time or whether to “stand down” and wait for more favorable weather.

The concern, ironically, is that the winds across the Pacific in which the balloon would be travelling are too calm. The weather conditions are such that the balloon would have to fly at low altitudes complete the crossing, and it could take nine to ten days, which is the maximum “duration” of the balloon and would leave no margin for error should anything go wrong.

Tami Bradley, wife of Troy Bradley, provides this explanation:

“The weather is such that we would be taking off knowing the balloon would have to be flown at low levels, which greatly increases the pilot workload. Also, we are looking at nine days without landfall, which is pushing the absolute outer limits of the balloon system and what it is designed to do. It is not prudent to take off knowing you are at the outer limits of the balloon’s capabilities. The weather is such that the winds are too slow for launch.”

The balloon remains laid out and ready for inflation at the launch site in Japan. Once the team reconvenes– probably later in the day on Friday (Thursday evening in Albuquerque) – they will make a final decision on whether to try to launch at this time or to repack their equipment and wait for a better weather pattern to develop. The launch “window” for the flight permits a launch as late as February 20.

January 07, 2015

For Immediate Release
Contact: Kim Vesely: media@twoeaglesballoonteam.com

Two Eagles Transpacific Balloon Crossing Go for Launch

Troy and Leonid
Albuquerque, NM: The team is ready, weather conditions look great, and Two Eagles pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev and Troy Bradley are preparing for an early Friday morning launch (Thursday afternoon Mountain Standard Time (MST) in the US, or Thursday evening GMT (Z)) in their international quest to complete a transpacific crossing in a helium balloon. The team began moving equipment to the launch site in Saga, Japan on Wednesday afternoon local (approximately 12 AM MST or 0700Z).

The Two Eagles launch and Mission Control teams received a “standby” message at about the 48-hour mark before the anticipated launch. This is the signal for the team in Japan to begin staging equipment at the launch site and the flight support team in the US to convene in Albuquerque to begin operations at the Mission Control Center at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.

After further analysis of weather and launch conditions, the team received a “go” notice later Wednesday evening (MST). This moved the process into the next phase, preparations to inflate the giant 350,000 cu. ft. (9,911 cu meter) balloon with helium. The team will also load the 287 40-pound sandbags that will provide ballast (expendable weight for maneuvering), and all the equipment and provisions the pilots will need for up to 10 days in flight.

If weather conditions remain favorable, including very light winds at the launch site coupled with faster winds at altitude to facilitate a successful transit of the Pacific, the team will begin to fill the balloon, with the goal of launching in the early morning hours (3 AM-6 AM) Friday local time in Saga (Thursday approximately 11 AM – 2 PM MST or 1800-2100Z). The first part of the balloon’s track will take it over land, which will give Bradley and Tiukhtyaev time to check out their equipment and make sure the balloon is performing as expected before venturing out over water. Early forecasts are that the balloon will pass north of the Hawaiian Islands approximately three days into the flight, with landfall in North America in about five days.

The goal of the flight is to set a new distance record for straight gas balloons (balloons solely using a lighter-than-air gas like helium for lift). The current record of 8,382.54 km / 5,208 mi was set by the Double Eagle V Albuquerque-based team of Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman, Ron Clark, and Rocky Aoki in 1981 during the only previous manned gas balloon transpacific crossing. The team would also like to best another hallowed world record: the gas balloon duration record set in 1978 by Abruzzo, Newman, and Maxie Anderson aboard Double Eagle II. They stayed aloft 137 hours, 5 minutes and 50 seconds during their history-making flight, the first successful transatlantic crossing by balloon.

The Mission Control Center in Albuquerque will begin operations on Thursday morning, as support for the flight passes from the launch team in Saga to the hands of the specialists who will provide weather, navigational, and other support from Mission Control. The Two Eagles website, www.twoeaglesballoonteam.com, will include live tracking of the balloon’s position and regular updates from Mission Control, as well as lots of information on the balloon, the team members, and the flight.

January 06, 2014

We are proud to announce the opening of the launch window.

Two Eagle PilotsPilots Troy Bradley from USA and Leonid Tiukhtyaev from Russia are presently in Saga, Japan await the green light for launch from our Weather Team

The launch site for this historic gas balloon flight will take place at the home of the Saga International Balloon Fiesta Park. We expect the duration of the gas balloon flight to last five to seven days, flying from Saga, Japan to North America crossing the Pacific Ocean. We hope to break the absolute world distance record of 8,382.54 km / 5,208 mi and possibly the absolute world duration record of 137h 5mn 50s for helium gas balloons. Mission Control is located in the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico and open to the public.

Two Eagles Press Conference in Saga, Japan

September 13, 2014:

After sitting dormant for nearly seven years the "Celestial Eagle" has been renamed the "Two Eagles" and is ready to fly.

Pilots Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev, along with the advice of their meteorologist and flight team, have decided to make an attempt on the Pacific Ocean this year. The pilots and team are working towards a launch this winter season. The launch will most likely occur in January or February 2015.

"The goal is to find a weather window that will move eastwards from East Asia to North America. Such a window must be found between two frontal systems associated with low pressures (depressions) which will move under the polar and/or the tropical jetstream(s) over the Northern Pacific. One of the main problems will be to fly the balloon not too fast or too slow between the bad weather features to avoid the turbulent and humid conditions associated with the fronts. If 7 to 12 knots are acceptable wind speeds during the take-off and the landing of the balloon, there are no limits when the balloon is at altitude and speeds of more than 100 knots could be reached under the jetstreams."

The Two Eagles team and pilots Bradley and Tiukhtyaev hope to set a new absolute distance record for straight gas balloons (those using a lighter-than-air gas such as helium for lift without the aid of other technologies such as hot air). Achieving the distance record would require a flight of approximately 5,300 miles or 8,500 km. The current record was set by the Double Eagle V crew during a 1981 trans-Pacific crossing.