Inspired by round the world balloon flight by the likes of Steve Faucett and Richard Branson, two amateur balloonists will attempt a trans Atlantic crossing of their own. The only difference is that these adventurers will be using scientific helium filled weather balloons not hot air balloons.
The two adventurers are John Flaig from Milwaukee, USA and Chris Hillcox from Sutton Coldfield , UK. The amateur balloonists will be attempting a feet that has only been done on two occasions, both by more skilled and equipped university operations. The balloon is a a 1600gm weather balloon and will be equipped with a 100gm satellite tracker, parachute (to return the tracker to earth safely ) and a message to encourage anyone finding the tracker to return it to Chris. The balloon will be launched from Milwaukee in the early hours of Sunday morning , local time, and will slowly ascend over the Mid West where the balloonists hope it will catch the jet stream and bring it to continental Europe. The adventure relies on a very slow ascent rate to maximise it’s time in the fast current of air that circles the mid latitudes, known as the jet stream. The balloon will expand on ascent as pressure decreases and will eventually pop, releasing the tracker and parachute. It is hoped that the balloon will spend as long as 12 hours in the jet, bringing it all the way over to Europe from America, and hopefully depositing the tracker in Germany. Chris and John have included a message to anyone who may find the tracker that it is harmless and that there is a reward for it’s safe return.
I all the adventure should cost the friends from both sides of the Atlantic £350 or $500. That is £80 for the balloon, £150 for the helium, £60 for the GPS tracker, and hopefully £60 for the reward.
In recent years high altitude ballooning has developed from being a tool for scientists, mainly meteorologists, to a hobby for intrepid photographers and amateur radio enthusiasts. It also has taken on a more serious role in education, from giving secondary school students an insight into the structure of the atmosphere, to university students who want to test nano satellites called cube sats. High altitude ballooning is also used by companies such as Google for experimenting in wide scale broad band provision and space technology companies to test devices for space or other planets.
The flight, which should take off in mid day Sunday (UK time) and be complete close to midnight can be followed at