437 Days in Space — And Other Records of Flight

These endurance flying records will leave you in awe of pilots who literally went the distance.
Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones flew around the world in the Breitling Orbiter 3
The Breitling Orbiter 3 circumnavigated the globe © Nicolas Le Corre/Getty Images
By Alison Mann

The Red Bull Paper Wings World Final, held at the glittering Hangar-7 venue in Austria on May 8-9, 2015, pits men and women from around the world against each other in tests of skill and endurance — with paper airplanes. These pilots attempt to break distance and airtime world records with every throw. Find out more about the event at RedBullPaperWings.com.

But how does this compare to the extreme lengths that pilots of all sorts have gone to smash records? From passing the months orbiting planet Earth to hang-gliding over volcanic cliffs, we present to you some of the most amazing endurance flight records in the world.

1. Balloon flight around the world (pictured at top)

What: Farthest distance flown in a balloon
Details: March 1-21, 1999 (477h 47m), a distance of 25,361 miles
Where: Circumnavigation of the Earth, starting in Switzerland
Pilot skill: 8

It was a lofty ambition in 1999 when Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones attempted to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon. Flying in the Breitling Orbiter 3, the pair managed to achieve the longest-ever balloon flight for distance and duration. The flight was also the first-ever nonstop-around-the-world flight.


Valery Polyakov looks out the window of the Russian space station during his flight
Valery Polyakov during his flight © NASA/Getty Images

2. Epic space orbit

What: Longest manned spaceflight
Details: Jan. 8, 1994 - March 22, 1995 (437 days 17h 58m 17s)
Where: Outer space
Pilot skill: 6

When it comes to endurance, orbiting space for more than 437 days is a doozy. Russian astronaut Valeri Polyakov gained the accolade of carrying out the longest manned spaceflight. He orbited the Earth 7,075 times and had traveled 186,886,942 miles before landing. Bet he was sick of freeze-dried food by the end of that flight!


Cruising over the cliffs. © Thomas Weissenberger

3. Hang-gliding world record

What: Hang-gliding out-and-back world record
Details: Nov. 3, 2013, traveling 219 miles
Where: Chile
Pilot skill: 8

After an eight-hour round-trip flight in which he flew a little over 219 miles, Tom Weissenberger smashed the hang-gliding out-and-back world record. He flew over the awe-inspiring mountain ridges of Chile's Cordillera coast in November 2013. The mission was four years in the making and was incredibly risky, as no one had flown along that volcanic cliff before.


The Voyager circumnavigated the globe without re-fuelling in 1986
The Voyager circumnavigated the globe © Apic/Getty Images

4. Around the world in nine days

What: Non-refueled, manned airplane endurance world record
Details: Dec. 14-23, 1986 (216h 3m 44s)
Where: Circumnavigation of the Earth starting in California, USA
Pilot skill: 7

With such an epic name there is no way the Voyager could not achieve the goal of flying around the world without stopping and without refueling. The aircraft set off from Edwards Air Force base in California, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, landing back again nine days later.


© John Collins/You Tube

5. Paper wings reaches new jeights — er, lengths

What: Paper plane distance world record
Details: Feb. 26, 2012, with a distance of 226.84 feet
Where: California
Pilot skill: 9 (Designer skill: 10)

Ever thought you could break an endurance flight record with an aircraft launched by your own hand? Well that's what Joe Ayoob did when he broke the distance record for a paper plane flight. The former Californian quarterback used a craft designed by John Collins.

Collins will be a judge at Red Bull Paper Wings on May 8-9 in Austria, and Ayoob will be a guest.

The Airbus Zephyr flew for 14 days without re-fuelling
The futuristic Airbus Zephyr © Airbus Defence and Space

6. The Record-breaking futuristic aircraft

What: World endurance record for an unmanned plane
Details: July 9-23, 2010 (336h 22m 8s)
Where: Arizona
Pilot skill: 0

The Airbus Zephyr is a pretty nifty bit of technology and holds the record for the longest flight duration without refueling at 14 days. The record was claimed in July 2010 in Arizona. The craft is solar-powered and the mighty machine has also broken the record for reaching the highest altitude at 70,739.8 feet.


Nevil Hulett broke the world paragliding distance record
Nevil Hulett broke the paragliding distance record © Bruce Goldsmith

7. Distance paragliding

What: World paragliding distance record
Details: Dec. 14, 2008, with a 315.04-mile flight
Where: South Africa
Pilot skill: 9

South Africa played host to Nevil Hulett's almost unbelievable flight of 315 miles, currently the outright world record for the furthest distance flown in a paraglider. It took an insane amount of skill to complete and is something most pilots could only dream of!

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