Balloon pilots arrive in New Mexico after historic flight

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Trans-Pacific balloon crew / Troy Bradley / Leonid Tiukhtyaev / Two Eagles Balloon Team
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Balloon pilots arrive in New Mexico after historic flight
Two pilots of a helium-filled balloon have successfully touched down off the coast of Mexico after crossing the Pacific Ocean in six days. The duo has unofficially broken two records after starting in the south of Japan and then flying close to Hawaii before landing just off the coast of Baja California. Sky's Harriet Hadfield reports.
Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia, hugs two family members Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015 at Albuquerque International Sunport, a day after he and Troy Bradley of Albuquerque, N.M., beat what's considered the "holy grail" of ballooning achievements. The two pilots in a helium-filled balloon landed safely off the coast of Mexico on Saturday after a nearly 7,000-mile long trip across the Pacific Ocean. The trip shattered two long-standing records for ballooning. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)
Leonid Tiukhtyaev, of Russia, hugs two family members Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, at Albuquerque International Sunport, a day after he and Troy Bradley of Albuquerque, N.M., beat what's considered the "holy grail" of ballooning achievements. The two pilots in a helium-filled balloon landed safely off the coast of Mexico on Saturday after a nearly 7,000-mile long trip across the Pacific Ocean. The trip shattered two long-standing records for ballooning. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)
Troy Bradley of Albuquerque, N.M., left, and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia, speak to reporters and supporters Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, at Albuquerque International Sunport a day after beating what's considered the "holy grail" of ballooning achievements. The two pilots in a helium-filled balloon landed safely off the coast of Mexico on Saturday after a nearly 7,000-mile long trip across the Pacific Ocean. The trip shattered two long-standing records for ballooning. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)
Troy Bradley of Albuquerque, N.M., left, and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia, speak to reporters and supporters Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, at Albuquerque International Sunport a day after beating what's considered the "holy grail" of ballooning achievements. The two pilots in a helium-filled balloon landed safely off the coast of Mexico on Saturday after a nearly 7,000-mile long trip across the Pacific Ocean. The trip shattered two long-standing records for ballooning. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)
This Jan. 26, 2015 photo provided by the Two Eagles Balloon Team shows a view upward of the helium-filled ballloon carrying Troy Bradley of Albuquerque and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia as it crosses the Pacific Ocean after taking off from Saga, Japan. The two pilots landed safely off the coast of Mexico early Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 after an audacious, nearly 7,000-mile-long trip across the Pacific Ocean that shattered two long-standing records for ballooning. The pilots landed 4 miles offshore in Baja California about 300 miles north of the popular beach destination of Cabo San Lucas. (AP Photo/Two Eagles Balloon Team)
In this Jan. 26, 2015 photo provided by the Two Eagles Balloon Team, the helium-filled ballloon carrying Troy Bradley of Albuquerque and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia passes over Mt. Fuji after taking off from Saga, Japan. The two pilots landed safely off the coast of Mexico early Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 after an audacious, nearly 7,000-mile-long trip across the Pacific Ocean that shattered two long-standing records for ballooning. The pilots landed 4 miles offshore in Baja California about 300 miles north of the popular beach destination of Cabo San Lucas. (AP Photo/Two Eagles Balloon Team)
In this Jan. 26, 2015 photo provided by the Two Eagles Balloon Team, the helium-filled ballloon carrying Troy Bradley of Albuquerque and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia crosses the Pacific Ocean after taking off from Saga, Japan. The two pilots landed safely off the coast of Mexico early Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, after an audacious, nearly 7,000-mile-long trip across the Pacific Ocean that shattered two long-standing records for ballooning. The pilots landed 4 miles offshore in Baja California about 300 miles north of the popular beach destination of Cabo San Lucas. (AP Photo/Two Eagles Balloon Team)
Irina Tiukhtyaev, center, and Margarita Shmidt, right, the wife and daughter of Russian balloon pilot Leonid Tiukhtyaev, discuss the landing of the Two Eagles Balloon after monitoring the final moments of the flight at mission control in Albuquerque, N.M., on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Tiukhtyaev and fellow pilot Troy Bradley landed after crossing the Pacific Ocean and surpassing a pair of major ballooning records. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
Tami Bradley, the wife of Two Eagles Balloon pilot Troy Bradley, gets a text message from her daughter about the balloon surpassing a world duration record while at mission control in Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
Paul Jorgenson with the Two Eagles mission control team in Albuquerque, N.M., calls in the latest location of the balloon after it surpassed a world duration record while crossing the Pacific Ocean on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev have traveled farther and longer in a gas balloon than anyone in history, trying to eliminate any remaining debate over a century of records in long-distance ballooning. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
The Two Eagles Balloon mission control team gets ready to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne in Albuquerque, N.M, following the successful landing of the helium-filled balloon just off the coast of Baja California on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Two pilots, Troy Bradley of Albuquerque and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia, in a helium-filled balloon landed safely off the coast of Mexico early Saturday after an audacious, nearly 7,000-mile (11,265-kilometer)-long trip across the Pacific Ocean that shattered two long-standing records for ballooning. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
Irina Tiukhtyaev writes a congratulatory message to her husband, pilot Leonid Tiukhtyaev, on a champagne bottle during a celebration at the Two Eagles Balloon mission control in Albuquerque, N.M., on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Leonid Tiukhtyaev and fellow pilot Troy Bradley successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean in their helium-filled balloon and surpassed two major distance and duration records. (AP Photos/Susan Montoya Bryan)
Tami Bradley hugs her daughter, Savannah, moments after watching her husband, The Two Eagles balloon pilot Troy Bradley, and fellow pilot Leonid Tiukhtyaev surpass a gas ballooning distance record on a giant screen inside the mission control room in Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Bradley and Tiukhtyaev were crossing on The Two Eagles balloon across the Pacific Ocean on Thursday as part of their record breaking challenge. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
Two Eagles balloon mission control director Steve Shope, at podium, discusses their balloon record breaking attempt during a briefing in Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. The Two Eagles balloon pilots, Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev were crossing over the Pacific Ocean on Thursday as part of their record breaking challenge. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
Members of the Two Eagles balloon mission control team watch a giant screen in Albuquerque, N.M., as pilots Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev surpass a gas ballooning distance record on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Bradley and Tiukhtyaev were crossing over the Pacific Ocean as part of their record breaking challenge. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
This Jan. 27, 2015 photo provided by the Two Eagles Balloon Team shows the sunrise as the helium-filled ballloon carrying Troy Bradley of Albuquerque and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia crosses the Pacific Ocean after taking off from Saga, Japan. The two pilots landed safely off the coast of Mexico early Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 after an audacious, nearly 7,000-mile-long trip across the Pacific Ocean that shattered two long-standing records for ballooning. The pilots landed 4 miles offshore in Baja California about 300 miles north of the popular beach destination of Cabo San Lucas. (AP Photo/Two Eagles Balloon Team)
SAGA, JAPAN - JANUARY 25: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) A hot air balloon of the U.S. balloonist Troy Bradley and Russian Leonid Tiukhtyaev soars on January 25, 2015 in Saga, Japan. They are challenging to fly more than 9,600 kilometers, crossing the Pacific Ocean. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque.
Another great photo from 15,000 feet, near Midway. Follow the flight of #TwoEagles http://t.co/HN2WwQD4ia http://t.co/rhfJI01MYC
In this Oct. 8, 2014 photo, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, right, talks with pilot Troy Bradley before announcing a record-breaking attempt by Bradley and his fellow balloon pilot, Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia, to fly across the Pacific Ocean while gathered at the Albuquerque Balloon Museum in Albuquerque, N.M. The announcement comes as hundreds of pilots and thousands of spectators gather in Albuquerque for the annual international balloon fiesta. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
FILE- In this Oct. 8, 2014 file photo, Albuquerque pilot Troy Bradley announces plans to fly across the Pacific Ocean with fellow pilot Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia as part of an effort to break a pair of long-distance and duration records that have stood for more than three decades, during a news conference in Albuquerque, N.M. A patch of rough weather over the Pacific Ocean has forced the two veteran pilots to delay the launch of their helium-filled balloon. Bradley of the U.S. and colleague Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia had planned to lift off from Saga, Japan. While flying conditions were just about perfect between Japan and Hawaii, forecasts called for deteriorating weather after that, which could hamper the record attempt and put the pilots in danger. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)
In this Oct. 8, 2014 photo, visitors to the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque, N.M., look at the capsule that carried four ballooning greats across the Pacific Ocean. Albuquerque pilot Troy Bradley and his partner, Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia, will use a similar capsule in a record-breaking attempt planned early next year. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
In this Oct. 8, 2014 photo, Albuquerque pilot Troy Bradley, right, speaks with his Russian teammate, pilot Leonid Tiukhtyaev, via Skype following a news conference in Albuquerque, N.M. Bradley and Tiukhtyaev have plans to break a pair of long-distance and duration records that have stood for more than three decades. The duo plans to launch their balloon, dubbed Two Eagles, early next year from Saga, Japan. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
This Oct. 8, 2014 photo shows the capsule on that carried four ballooning greats across the Pacific Ocean more than three decades ago, on display at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque, N.M. Albuquerque pilot Troy Bradley and his partner, Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia, will use a similar capsule in a record-breaking attempt planned early next year. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
#TwoEagles nearly 3 days, 3600 miles and 2/3rds of the way. Things are UP! Follow the flight http://t.co/HN2WwQD4ia http://t.co/cxgWr0Q4RF
First photo from #TwoEagles capsule. Just one of many great views the pilots are reporting enjoying. #ICTwoEagles http://t.co/69WgSRnGYu
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT/NHK)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT/NHK)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT/NHK)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT/NHK)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT/NHK)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT/NHK)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT/NHK)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT/NHK)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT/NHK)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT/NHK)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT)
The Two Eagles balloon took off from Japan on Saturday, attempting a record breaking flight to North America.  Mission control for the flight is based in Albuquerque. (KOAT)
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Two pilots who completed a record-breaking flight across the Pacific Ocean in a helium-filled balloon returned to New Mexico on Sunday to the sounds of mariachi music and an enthusiastic and emotional welcome

A large crowd greeted Troy Bradley of Albuquerque and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia at the Albuquerque International Sunport after they finished the historic journey a day earlier. The news conference was adorned with colorful balloon decorations to mark the occasion, and the event included a champagne toast.

Bradley had been planning the trans-Pacific flight for 15 years, and his wife said he was driven by a goal of doing something better than anyone else in the world.

"Our flight was absolutely amazing," Bradley told reporters and supporters.

The accomplished Albuquerque pilot had set his sights long ago on flying farther and longer in a gas balloon than anyone in history. He and Tiukhtyaev staked their claim to those records during a nearly seven-day trip across the Pacific Ocean in a helium-filled balloon.

Their adventure ended just after sunrise Saturday when they touched down in the water a few miles off the coast of Mexico's Baja California, and about 300 miles north of the popular beach destination of Cabo San Lucas.

Initial plans called for a picture-perfect landing on the beach, but winds pushing parallel to the coast forced the pilots to drop their trailing ropes into the ocean to help slow the balloon for a controlled water landing.

"That was the hardest part of the trip," Bradley said.

Hundreds of miles away at mission control in Albuquerque, cheers erupted and the cork was popped on a bottle of champagne. The team declared success once they knew the pilots had been picked up by a fishing boat. Mexican authorities helped to secure the balloon and capsule along with all the equipment aboard that was used to document the historic flight.

Back in Albuquerque on Sunday, another cork was popped on a bottle of champagne, this time with the two pilots and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, who traveled to Mexico to personally meet the record-breakers.

"They helped put Albuquerque on the map," Berry said.

Balloonists in Sea Landing Off Mexico

Bradley and Tiukhtyaev lifted off from Japan last Sunday. By Friday, they beat what's considered the "holy grail" of ballooning achievements, the 137-hour duration record set in 1978 by the Double Eagle crew of Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson and Larry Newman in the first balloon flight across the Atlantic. They also easily exceeded the distance record of 5,209 miles set by the Double Eagle V team during the first trans-Pacific flight in 1981.

By the time they landed, the Two Eagle pilots had traveled 6,646 miles over six days, 16 hours and 38 minutes.

Asked if he and Bradley were still friends after such a long trip, Tiukhtyaev said no. "We stayed brothers," said Tiukhtyaev, who holds his own records and has participated in many long-distance gas balloon races in the United States and Europe.

Growing up in the former Soviet Union, Tiukhtyaev said he never thought about breaking the record with an American pilot. "But I've always dreamed about it since I was a child," he said in Russian.

The original route took the pilots on a path from Japan, across the Pacific Ocean and toward the Pacific Northwest before they encountered a wall of high pressure. They then made a sweeping right turn and headed south along the California coast for the Mexico landing.

"We enjoy great views," Bradley said. "We took some great photos."

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