Balloon section of Finnish Aviation Association confirmed 2nd October the new duration record for hot air balloon class AX-9. Duration was 13hrs 46minutes. Pilot Markku Sipinen.
Former Finnish national record was done year 2009. To beat it 12h 50min flight had to fly, because FAI Sporting code says minimum one percent is needed on top of old record.
Markku Sipinen took off from Tankolampi (Konnevesi community) 26th march 2014 3.05 AM UTC. Just before sunrise.
Big idea was to use the lazy high pressure area developing just flying area above Central Finland. This idea will give to ground team time to stay same area without driving hundreds of kilometers – even to Sweden behind the Gulf of Bothnia. Airspace of Russia is practically closed for flights like this.
But there was airspace limitations in western Finland due the Finnish Air Force activity (brown in picture below). It was impossible for this flight.
So the flight must stay in the calm center of High or abort before flying too far west.
Original plan was at first to fly quite high altitude going south and later low altitude would bring balloon back to north avoiding restricted area.
Still when preparing the flight upper wind was not forecasted and eastern surface wind was heavier as expected. No time to drive east before take-off.
Decision was to take off and try to beat these challenges. So, original plan was no more real and big flexibility and some creativity was needed.
First flighthours staying as low as possible allowed to stay in relatively small area. For some reason during four first hours fuel consumption was clearly higher as expected. Using patiently low altitude without giving up flight path was to western restricted areas.
Key was to find succesfully calm area behind a hill. There was possibility to stay more than 3hrs. When thermals started approx 10PM pilot had to climb above them. Consulting with meteo gave good hope.
After climb altitude was from 5000ft to 7000 ft. Luckily, there really was light wind as promised. So the High was true! Leading flight path slowly to southeastern directions! Also fuel consumption more than normalized. Happy optimistic messages were sent to ground crew.
During this flight the balloon was seen quite wide area because of clear sky.
Landing site was sporting field of Konnevesi 13hrs 46minutes after take-off. Approx. 12 km NE from take off site. Old record was beated 1h 04minutes. Track was 106 km. Balloon was Ultramagic S-130 OH-IOO. AO graphics.
One year earlier Sipinen flew also Finnish record. It was Finnish long distance record from Rovaniemi to Vaskivesi. 494,22 km in 11h 11minutes. So he has now double record.