Record Altitude attempt from Defford airfield



Croft Farm has hosted an extraordinary variety of visitors over the years – this was no exception!

Preparations began at 7 am on the 24th February 2012 on a bright and increasingly breezy day. A film crew from Bristol, accompanied by a ‘professional meteorologist’, began to prepare a weather balloon which was to be attached to a camera and recovery parachute. The purpose of this ‘flight’ was to obtain an high altitude picture of the earth’s curvature for the BBC ‘One Show Challenge’ series.

The components were assembled in a conveniently sheltered open hanger, facing east. Two cameras were secured in a polystyrene box to which was attached a recovery parachute. These in turn were attached to the neck of the balloon. In addition a tracking beacon was on board with which to plot the route and assist recovery.

Filming the event inevitably slowed the operation. However, by 11am all the checks had been made and the balloon had been inflated with helium, held down by four plastic milk bottles of water! The camera box and recovery parachute were secured by a ten metre light cord to the neck of the balloon. The local ATC had been contacted and the whole combination was cautiously moved out of the shelter of the hanger into the breeze, which now was gusting at over 15 mph, requiring several hands to control the lurching rubber monster and its fragile payload.

The ‘launch’ required the ‘crew’ to run as fast as possible downwind allowing the balloon to rise before releasing it. At this point its distorted pear shape resumed a natural sphere as it rapidly ascended, trailing the camera and its recovery parachute. Thanks to the clear blue sky the white diminishing dot remained visible for at least ten minutes.

Once out of sight the track and altitude were displayed on a laptop screen showing a track of almost due east. After twenty five minutes the upper winds had taken it as far as Milton Keynes, rising through 35,000ft.

Target altitude was 100,000ft at which point the balloon would burst or would be automatically released from its payload, which would then return to earth (or sea?!).

Surprisingly the film/launch crew were in no hurry to leave, but eventually they moved off in pursuit of their ‘quarry’.

Flight Report:-

Launch : 1140 hrs Croft Farm, Defford, Worcs

Balloon burst : 1310 hrs 8 miles south of Bedford

Altitude at Balloon burst : 98,000 feet

Payload landed : 1400 hrs Church End, Braintree, Essex

Distance travelled : 115 miles

Apparently this will be broadcast on the BBC One Show in about four months time!

Andrew John


Page last updated May 31, 2020

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