On April 21, the famous traveler Fedor Konyukhov presented two impressive new projects at the Headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society in Moscow. He intends to make a record non-stop flight in high latitudes on a paraplane during the conquest of the North Pole, as well as spend three months at a one-person polar station in Antarctica.
Both of Fedor Konyukhov's projects will be implemented by the Russian company “Poseidon Expeditions”. It has been organizing trips to the Arctic and Antarctica for more than 20 years. About 30 thousand people from different countries of the world are now members of the Polar Travel Club.
A paraplane is an aircraft with a parachute wing. It is equipped with an engine and landing gear, on which the pilot and passenger are located. At the moment, the record for a non-stop flight of 427 kilometers in polar latitudes belongs to the Polish aeronauts. Russians Fedor Konyukhov and Igor Potapkin intend to cover about 500 kilometers.
“We are flying without a cockpit on an aircraft from the class of ultralight aircraft. Its average speed is 50 kilometers per hour. We want to break the record and fly 500 kilometers without landing," said one of the best Russian paraplane pilots, master of sports Igor Potapkin at a meeting of the Polar Travel Club dedicated to new projects by Fedor Konyukhov.
According to him, it will be a unique air marathon. No one has ever flown over the North Pole on such an aircraft.
“A lot depends on the weather. Arctic weather is harsh. It can change in ten kilometers. The danger is that you will have to improvise, choose the flight level. There will be water, ice, and pressure ridges under us. A lot of things. Subsequently, you need to stay alive. There are two options – to make history or get into trouble. We choose the former," Potapkin added.
The paraplane will fly at altitudes of up to two kilometers. The flight may take 10-12 hours. The aircraft will be tested during the preparatory project "From the White Sea to the Black Sea", starting on June 4. The travelers will cover about 3.5 thousand kilometers over land in temperate latitudes to carefully prepare the device for the challenge of the harsh conditions of the Arctic.
“We took a standard model of the paraplane and refined it. Usually a two-stroke engine is installed, and in a two-seat version, the paraplane consumes 15 liters per hour. We will be putting in a four-stroke engine. Depending on the load, the fuel consumption will be 7-12 liters. We will take about 100-120 liters with us on board. Now the preparations are in full swing. Test flights will show how much tanks are needed and what we’ll need to take with us. We will be ready by August," Igor Potapkin promised.
According to Nikolai Saveliev, founder of the Polar Travel Club of “Poseidon Expeditions”, the main goal of the project is to fly as far as possible without refueling. At the same time, the paraplane will be accompanied by the vessel with fuel and everything necessary. There are several options for conducting the flight.
“To the North Pole from Franz Josef Land in a straight line – 830 kilometers. If we fly 500, there will still be more than 300. Our speed is 50 kilometers per hour, and the icebreaker will go 18 kilometers per hour. We'll wait a couple of days for it to arrive, and a helicopter will bring us gasoline. We'll refuel and go to the North Pole," Konyukhov told about one of them.
Another option is also being considered: the vessel will take the paraplane and its two brave pilots to the border of heavy ice at a distance of 500 kilometers from the North Pole. In this case, the non-stop flight will start at this point. The decision will be made on the spot depending on the weather. Usually the winds blow from the pole to the south. With a strong headwind, the flight will begin at the pole and the paraplane will move towards the mainland.
Another joint project of Fedor Konyukhov and “Poseidon Expeditions” will be a one-person polar station on Livingston Island off the coast of Antarctica. Nikolai Saveliev reminded that the first lands in Antarctica were discovered by Thaddeus Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev during the famous Antarctic Expedition. Accordingly, the first names of the straits and islands were Russian.
“There are no Russian names on the maps now. The RGS plans to issue new maps for schoolchildren, which will have Russian names on them. In this regard, we are organizing a one-person polar station on Livingston Island, which has received the Russian name Smolensk. On December 12, on Fedor Konyukhov's 71st birthday, we will go on another voyage and deliver him to the island," Saveliev said.
In about ten days, the ship of “Poseidon Expeditions” will return and pick up the team that was preparing the polar station. Fedor Konyukhov will stay on the island of Smolensk alone for three months – until March.
“A beautiful, beautiful island. In January, we landed on it together with Fedor Konyukhov. We did reconnaissance, examined whether this was the right island, the wind and weather conditions there, the animals, currents, the amount of snow, glaciers. Explored everywhere and realized that this island is classically suitable for such a polar station. There are many islands there; there are also Maloyaroslavets, Borodino, Polotsk. But Smolensk is most suitable. Insanely beautiful! We have already found the exact place where the polar station will be located," Saveliev said.