FAQs

What are the goals of the flight?
The goals of the flight are to break the World Distance Record for gas balloons, originally set by the Double Eagle V team during the first manned trans-Pacific flight in November of 1981. Double Eagle V traveled 8382.54 km. (5,208.67 mi.)*. The flight could also set a new duration record for gas balloons. The current duration record, set by the Double Eagle II team during the first successful trans-Atlantic crossing in August of 1978, is 137 hr, 5 min, 50 sec. (essentially 5 days, 17 hours)*.

Since the beginning of time, men and women have found satisfaction by extending their horizons and pushing their limits. The flight presents a great personal and technical challenge to two very talented and experienced pilots.

(*Certified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), the agency that certifies all world aviation records. The team must exceed the current record by 1% in order to claim a new world record.) [ link to FAI ]
What is the proposed launch date?
The flight is sanctioned by the National Aeronautic Association (the U.S. body that oversees record attempts by U.S. citizens) for January – March, 2015. The launch window opens on Tuesday, January 6 and closes on Friday, February 20. During this period, the team will be staged near the launch site, ready to proceed with the flight as soon as the right weather conditions develop.
What is the proposed flight path?
In order to take advantage of the best weather patterns, the flight will launch from Saga, Japan. Crossing the North Pacific, we will make landfall either in the United States or Canada. We could end up landing as far south as Mexico.

About the balloon:

What is the name of the balloon?
The name of the balloon is the Two Eagles. It was named to honor the tradition of the great Double Eagle flights of the 1970’s and 80’s. Ben Abruzzo and Maxie Anderson, of Albuquerque, were the inspiration for these flights and we hope to follow in their footsteps.
What are the differences between this
balloon and others?
The Two Eagles balloon is a helium filled gas balloon. It requires dropping sand ballast and valving (small releases) of helium to control altitude.

There are two other types of balloons. "Hot-air" balloons use propane burners to warm normal air inside their envelopes to create lift. The recent attempt to cross the Pacific by Japanese pilot Michio Kanda used a very large hot-air balloon. "Roziere Balloons" are the only ones that have circled the earth. They use a combination of hot-air and gas. [ Click here for illustrated description ]
Who built the balloon?
Composite Tooling, in Albuquerque, built the capsule. It is a Kevlar/carbon-fiber composite, giving it tremendous strength at a very light weight (about 220 pounds or 100 kilos). It is about five feet wide, seven feet long, and five feet high. The pilots will be living in a closet-like space smaller than a king-sized bed and with a very low ceiling.

Bert Padelt (foreground) prepares the Two Eagles capsule for launch in Saga, Japan Bert Padelt (foreground) prepares the Two Eagles capsule for launch in Saga, Japan, January 2015, while pilots Leonid Tiukhtyaev (behind Padelt) and Troy Bradley (standing at right) and team members look on.


The balloon envelope was built in Pennsylvania by master gas balloon craftsman Bert Padelt. Padelt builds many of the gas balloon envelopes used in distance races such as the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta America’s Challenge and the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett. This balloon envelope is about 10 times larger than the balloons used in gas races. It has a volume of 350,000 cu. ft. (just short of 10,000 cu. m.), and is classified as an AA-13. It weighs 1,475 pounds.
To learn more about the balloon system, click here.
How much will the whole balloon
system weigh?
Fully loaded for flight, the system, without ballast, will probably weigh in the neighborhood of 2,500 lbs. Including ballast (sand), the total system weight at launch could be as much as 14,500lb / 6,578kg, depending on the weather conditions and the initial flight altitude planned by the pilots and weather team.

About the flight:

How does a gas balloon fly?
Traditional gas balloons like the Two Eagles system use a lighter-than-air gas to generate lift. The Two Eagles will use helium. As the balloon flies, the helium expands and contracts with heat, so the balloon will gain altitude as the helium is warmed by the sun and warmer daytime air temperatures, and lose altitude as the helium cools at night. The balloon has ducts that can release helium if the balloon becomes too full, and the pilots can also release small amounts of helium through a valve at the top of the balloon to stay in the most favorable winds.

In order to keep from losing too much altitude, the balloon carries ballast, in the form of sand, which is dumped in order to make the balloon lighter. The sand is carried in 400 color-coded bags which help the pilots keep track of how much sand they have used during the flight. Depending on the weather and flight profile, the balloon will most likely carry about 11,500 lbs. / 5,216 kg of sand.

In an emergency anything that has weight can be used as ballast, and history demonstrates that balloonists have tossed equipment, food, and even pieces of the capsule overboard in order to stay aloft. In one of the earliest great balloon flights, the first gas balloon crossing of the English Channel in the late eighteenth century, pilots Blanchard and Jefferies famously landed in their underwear!
At what altitudes will the balloon fly?

The altitudes will vary between 12,000 to 30,000ft / 3,650 to 9,100m above ground, depending on the weather and wind conditions. Typically, higher winds are at higher altitudes. However, the actual altitudes of the flight will be decided at launch time and in the course of the flight based on weather conditions.

How long will the flight last?
It depends on the weather conditions prevailing during the flight, but the trans-Pacific passage could take 5-6 days. The balloon can stay aloft for a maximum of 10 days.
How will the pilots maintain
communications during the flight?
The balloon will carry two Iridium satellite phones, two VHF aircraft radios, a marine band radio, two satellite-based trackers that will automatically transmit the balloon’s location and altitude, two aviation radar transponders, a VHF/UHF ham radio, and two emergency beacons that when activated report directly to search and rescue satellites (SARSAT).
How do the pilots use weather
information?
One analogy balloonists sometimes use is that the pilots drive the bus and the meteorologists provide the route. The weather forecasters use the available weather information to give the pilots a set of parameters regarding altitude, direction, and speed and the pilots use those parameters to make in-flight adjustments and decisions. The pilots expect to talk to the weather team every few hours.
What happens if the balloon lands in
the ocean?
The capsule is designed to float. The two wedge keels at the bottom of the capsule will flood with water to hold the capsule in an upright position. The balloonists’ survival gear includes survival (immersion) suits, life vests, an inflatable life raft, and E-PIRB (personal locator devices) – an emergency signal device that sends out GPS coordinates as well as a signal.
What kind of support does the
Command Center provide?
Once the balloon launches in Saga, most of the team’s ground support operations will be coordinated from the Albuquerque, New Mexico area. The Command Center team includes the Flight Director, controllers experienced in monitoring long-distance gas balloon flights, the team’s meteorologists, the specialists who manage the tracking software and Web site, and the public information team. The Command Center provides regular weather updates and other information to the pilots, monitors aeronautical charts to keep the pilots informed of any airspace restrictions, helps facilitate contact with the FAA and air traffic controllers, and initiates and helps to coordinate search and rescue operations should that become necessary. Once the balloon lands, the Command Center will help to guide the chase crew to the balloon and facilitate retrieval of the pilots and equipment.

About life aboard the balloon:

What are the pilots planning to eat?
The pilots will carry freeze-dried hikers’ meals, fresh fruit, beef jerky, energy bars, and other quick and easy foods to eat, as well as personal comfort foods to snack on. Avoiding dehydration during the flight will be very important, so the pilots will carry lots of water, Gatorade, and other beverages. The balloon will have a small stove so the pilots can occasionally have a hot meal. However, because of the flight altitude and the limited space in the capsule to move around the pilot’s most likely will not have large appetites.
How will the pilots stay warm
and oxygenated?
The pilots will wear an array of cold weather gear. Additionally, they will have sleeping bags and an onboard heater, and will have chemical heater packs available.

Anytime the balloon is above 12,000 ft. in altitude (likely to be most of the flight), the pilots will breathe oxygen supplied by a liquid oxygen reservoir.
What sanitary facilities are on board?
The balloon is equipped with a simple toilet.
Will the balloonists communicate with
the outside world?
Yes. Long ago, balloonists on long trans-oceanic flights relayed messages through airliners passing by their location. These days, communications are much more sophisticated. The team will be in frequent contact with the Command Center in Albuquerque and will get regular updates from their weather forecasters and the Command Center controllers. They will also be in touch with air traffic controllers, especially as they leave Japan and arrive in North America. The pilots also hope to exchange quick messages with family members.
How will the pilots sleep, and
for how long?
The pilots have sleeping bags on board, and a platform on which one of the pilots can sleep. The pilots plan to sleep in 4 – 6 hour shifts, but sometimes in flight that can be a tall order.
Do the balloonists have any time to
relax?
Very little. The balloon requires continual monitoring while in flight as weather conditions and the day-to-night cycle changes. Usually, the pilot not on watch tries to sleep. There will be some down time for relaxing with music, journaling, or reading.