FRIDAY, JULY 15, 2016
World record hot air balloon attempt reaches New Zealand
Airways New Zealand confirms the hot air balloon carrying Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhovon on his world record attempt to circumnavigate the globe has entered New Zealand airspace.
The balloon was picked up by air traffic control shortly after 12pm, Airways Chief Operating Officer Pauline Lamb says. It is expected to travel around the tip of the North Island and out into the southern Pacific Ocean at altitudes of up to 26,000 feet.
“We’ve created a two-hour virtual bubble or ‘reservation area’ around the balloon. We will protect this with our normal airspace separation procedures which means all other aircraft will be directed to fly around the reservation area,” Ms Lamb says.
The balloon has the same surveillance and communications equipment on board that a normal aircraft would, including a transponder and satellite phone. Airways’ Oceanic Control Centre in Auckland is receiving updates on the balloon’s location every 10 minutes.
It is exciting for New Zealand to be part of this world record opportunity, Ms Lamb says.
“Since we learned the balloon was on its way, we’ve been working with our customers and the regulator to adjust our operations to facilitate this journey safely and minimise any potential disruption.”
Ms Lamb says high altitude ballooning is an emerging technology and Airways is working to support its development.
“Airways has facilitated a number of balloon launches, including the launch of Nasa's super-pressure scientific balloon in Wanaka in May, which we have gained a great deal of knowledge from.”