The Challenge – The World Record For The Longest Distance Flight


In July, the explorer David Hempleman-Adams will be piloting a small gas balloon, no bigger than most people`s front rooms, from St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, to Europe.

This will be a new FAI (Federation Aeronautique Internationale) world record in distance. The 3425 km journey could take four days, depending on the weather.

This is unique compared to other transatlantic flights because it is solo and in an open wicker basket open to the elements. No one has ever flown the Atlantic in a balloon as small as this.


David will be flying between 6000 ft to 15,000 ft depending on the weather track. As David is flying in an open wicker basket at this altitude he will be more susceptible to bad weather such as rain, ice and cold. The temperatures could go as low as minus 30 c. David said, “I`ll be taking an extra sweater, boxer shorts and a sleeping bag.”


The flight has a zero carbon footprint, the most basic form of flight. The helium is an inert natural gas and the ballast, or fuel, is sand which will be thrown out of the balloon to regulate height. David will be taking two tons of sand which will be mixed with salt so the water content in the sand doesn’t freeze.

David said, “The beauty of this flight is that it will be going purely at the mercy of the winds. It will be one of my quietest flights because there will be no burners.”


There will be several safety factors. David will have an Argos tracking system which will give a position to the control room in Weybridge on a regular basis. Another lightweight tracking system(name tbc) will give a position every two minutes. David will be relaying his latitude and longitude plus blog on an hourly basis from the control room in Weybridge, Surrey, using satellite technology.

He will be flying in a bright orange immersion suit and will have an inflatable life raft and life jacket. In addition, David will have a Mc Murdo beacon which will give rescue services his position. He will also be wearing a Breitling emergency wrist watch.

David said, “The flight is dangerous and on the edge of possibility, but we’ve minimised the risks and safety margins as much as possible and I feel confident I’ll be safe.”

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