Two Eagles transoceanic balloon trek has Fulton engineering connection
Early Sunday morning, the Two Eagles balloon and its pilots, Leonid Tiukhtyaev (two-kh-TIE-yev) and Troy Bradley, set off from Japan on a journey across the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to set a new distance record for gas balloons. The pilots hope to land in North America after about five and a half days in the air.
Achieving the record would require a flight of approximately 5,300 miles, or 8,500 kilometers. The current record was set by the Double Eagle V crew during a 1981 trans-Pacific crossing.
The team also wants to break another hallowed world record: the gas balloon flight duration record set in 1978 by Double Eagle II, which stayed aloft for 137 hours, 5 minutes and 50 seconds during their history-making flight, the first successful trans-Atlantic crossing by balloon.
As the Two Eagles balloon makes its trek across the Pacific Ocean, flying the balloon will be a full-time job for Tiukhtyaev and Bradley. They are making the dangerous trip across the ocean with limited sleep and access to oxygen in a small capsule. Temperatures are expected to be in the 50s.
Researchers at Arizona State University are studying the effects of fatigue on the pilots’ cognitive ability.
Leading the research team is Nancy Cooke (read more about Cooke’s research here), a professor of human systems engineering at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. Cooke is a national expert in the field of individual and team cognition, and science director of the Cognitive Engineering Research Institute in Mesa, Arizona.
Other members of the ASU human systems engineering research team are associate professor Vaughn Becker, postdoctoral researcher Nathan McNeese, and Ashley Knobloch, who is working to earn a master’s in the field.
“We will be monitoring, live, the pilots’ cognitive function during the flight,” Cooke said. “We will be looking at how lack of sleep impacts stress, and at what point cognitive ability becomes impacted to the point of influencing decision-making.”
The pilots will take memory and spatial tests twice a day. Cooke’s research group, which includes students, will record the data. The results will be shared with mission control and may help the pilots alleviate actions that could negatively impact the flight.
“You don’t often get to do this type of research real-time,” said Cooke. “What we hope to learn more about is when and what factors impact poor decision-making under extreme circumstances.”
Cooke is chair of the National Research Council’s Board on Human Systems Integration and a member of the National Research Council’s Soldier System Panel. The majority of her research is focused on military applications and funded by the Department of Defense.
She is married to Steven Shope, who is the mission control director for Two Eagles. Shope is president of Sandia Research Corporation, a Mesa-based high-technology company providing creative technology solutions for its U.S. government customers. This has included work on high-altitude scientific gas flights into the stratosphere.
Shope and Cooke are hot air balloon enthusiasts and Shope is also a pilot. He has been event director for five international balloon competitions.
Follow the Two Eagles balloon on its journey at http://www.pacificballoon.com and on the following social media channels:
Sharon Keeler, [email protected]
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering