On 8th January 2000, the first ever hot air balloon flight at the South Pole took place. Ivan André Trifonov, an Austrian balloon pilot, flew 14,934m (49,000ft) over the geographic South Pole Antarctica at an altitude of 4,571m (15,000ft) with his two Spanish crew members. The Aircraft was Mil 2000, a Cameron AX 66- EC-HDB hot air balloon carrying the flags of the Antarctic Treaty nations which are usually flown around the ceremonial South Pole.
Ivan Andre Trifinov balloon pilot and adventurer said “I had a Tarot card reading (one possible way to look in the future, if you believe) analysed by my polar friend Matthias Wölfle showed a positive trend for my personal participation and I took this as a good omen. With a diabolical willpower I mobilised all possible ways of organising the necessary finances. I also worked long hours on my balloon construction to reduce the total take-off weight to 140 kg and to minimise my costs. Through a big sponsorship help of the mobile telephone company “max.mobil” and a large part of my own money the financial situation was eventually resolved and I did it.”
Snow Bugs were used for the transport.
The “Snow Bugs” are remarkable vehicles with 6 large inflated tyres which give a very light footprint on the snow and are ideal for soft snow or areas with crevasses. Only the middle pair of wheels are normally used for drive although 4 wheels have drive-shafts fitted.
During the journey to the pole all 14 replacement gear boxes had to be used. They used 3 different engines with the Volvo being more reliable than the Volkswagen and Minsk engines.
The four “Snow Bugs” finally arrived at the South Pole late on the 7th of January 2000. Just in time, and before the launch the next day the “Snow Bugs” demonstrated their light footprint by running over some American volunteers. A feat which resulted in great applause from those watching (but probably scared the hell out of the volunteers)!