Kirovsk (Murmansk region) – The legendary traveller Fyodor Konyukhov and the President of the Russian Ballooning Federation, Ivan Menyaylo, have begun their transcontinental flight on their hot-air balloon “PhosAgro”.
The historic expedition was launched on 24 March at 5:15 a.m. from a site near Kirovsk, in the Murmansk region. In order to set two world records – for distance flown and flight duration – the pilots will spend about 60 hours in the air and cover a distance of 2,500 thousand km (the current record is 2,360 km). The hot-air balloon “PhosAgro”, with an envelope volume of 12 thousand cubic metres – the largest balloon ever produced in the history of Russian aeronautics – was made especially for this historic expedition.
Konyukhov, a traveller and Orthodox priest, said: “Our goals are ambitious: to break two world records at once. I am confident, however, that we will be able to accomplish this with the support of our friends from PhosAgro. We are dedicating our expedition to the DROZD (Educated and Healthy Children of Russia) movement, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. This is a unique project that brings together thousands of children in Russia’s regions, helping them find their way in life.
“In fact, the idea for this flight came from one of these boys! I would like to say a big thank-you to him. I would like him to see that, when everyone – a large, close-knit team – tackles a problem together, you can achieve any goal, solve even the most difficult of problems. You just need to believe in yourself, in your friends, in your country, and everything will work out, with God’s help. And your dream will become a reality – a great victory!”
The Governor of the Murmansk region, Andrey Chibis, said: “Travelling around the world, reaching one of the Earth’s poles or setting a new world record – it seems that nothing is impossible for Fyodor Konyukhov. But most importantly, all these goals aren’t just for show; they’re in the interest of science. True scientific patriotism.
“Fyodor plans to dedicate his new world record to children. In doing so, he is setting an example for young people and engaging them in science. I wish the pilots, Fyodor Konyukhov and Ivan Menyaylo, favourable winds and excellent weather. May the goals of the expedition be achieved. Go for the record!”
PhosAgro CEO Mikhail Rybnikov said: “Fyodor Konyukhov’s numerous sporting records, including his Guinness World Records, are a national treasure. They focus the attention of the entire world on Russia, teach others about our country’s unique natural and human resources. But what is even more important is that they act as a genuine guiding star, showing young people the right path to follow in life. That is why we are especially grateful to Fyodor for dedicating his transcontinental flight to mark the 20th anniversary of DROZD.
“The entire country will be watching the expedition in the coming days. And among them – excited and paying close attention – will be more than 50 thousand young DROZD members, who won’t doubt even for a second that our heroes will succeed!
It was not by chance that Fyodor and Ivan chose Kirovsk as the starting point for their expedition. It was here that DROZD, now a Russia-wide movement, was founded by Andrey Guryev, Vice President of the Russian Union of Chemists, international-class judo master and honoured trainer of Russia.
The project is aimed at combining in a harmonious way sports and wellness programmes with traditional schooling, developing continuing education and creativity, and promoting a healthy lifestyle, moral and patriotic education as well as intellectual development among children.
Shortly before the launch of the expedition, pupils from the DROZD-Khibiny centre, the movement’s operator in the Murmansk region, attended the grand opening of an exhibition of Fyodor’ artwork, called My Way, where they also had an opportunity to meet with him in person. Young DROZD members from Kirovsk came to see Fyodor off on his record-setting flight. They wished the renowned traveller clear skies and favourable winds, a solution to every challenge and a soft landing.
Nairi Barseghyan, a World Air Sports Federation commissioner, will document the trajectory of the entire flight and monitor compliance with the requirements for world records. He will also document the balloon’s landing as well as any possible world records. The Yenisei river basin has been named as the most likely place for the balloon’s landing and thus the completion of the expedition.