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NZ in Russian balloonist's path

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/07/2016 Greg Roberts
Fedor Konyukhov prepares for lift off from the Northam Aero Club on July 12, 2016 in Northam, Australia. © Getty Images Fedor Konyukhov prepares for lift off from the Northam Aero Club on July 12, 2016 in Northam, Australia.

A 65-year-old Russian man described as "the world's greatest adventurer" has begun his bid to fly around the world in under two weeks in a hot air balloon flight.

Fedor Konyukhov lifted off from Northam, about 100km east of Perth, shortly after dawn on Tuesday in his 56-metre tall air-helium balloon with hundreds of people including his family watching .

He hopes to break the 13-day 33,000km record set by American aviator Steve Fossett in 2002, who also launched his solo nonstop flight from Northam.

He was due to cross the border into South Australia on Wednesday morning, be in New Zealand the next night and across the Pacific Ocean, where he can use the fast flowing jet stream to move quicker.

Australian entrepreneur and fellow adventurer Dick Smith, who was there to see him off, has known Konyukhov for 26 years.

"This is a very risky flight without any doubt ... we have no idea what the winds are going to be like," he said.

"He's become undoubtedly the world's greatest adventurer."

Northam, a town with a population of about 6000, is desirable because it is a ballooning headquarter through its location in the Avon Valley with low winds.

The southern hemisphere is also desirable because past expeditions in the north have run into problems trying to fly across restricted areas in the Middle East and northern Asia, Smith said.

Among Konyukhov's achievements are climbing Mt Everest twice and travelling to the North and South poles.

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