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03 July 2007

Toshiba Transatlantic - Successful launch

At 00:00 Hr UTC David launched the balloon after months of preparations.

Nigel Mitchell, the logistics director, witnessed the event from the launch site at St. John’s. He said, “It all went extremely smoothly. All that preparation paid off. Bert, Bill and Jim did a fantastic job. We had Luc’s final weather in early evening. The local conditions were not great. There was a light mist - a cross between mist and drizzle, which made it a little damp. It meant that David was flying up into a milky misty murk. We phoned Air Traffic Control an hour before launch to confirm our plans and immediately before launch we phoned St John’s Tower to request final clearance which was granted.
At 0130 UK hours off he went. David was very calm and confident. He had spent some time in the basket before he launched going through everything and making final checks. There was a great crowd with lots of kids. A little girl came up and gave him a Canadian penny for luck. The crowd cheered him on and off he went. Bert Padelt’s calculations were on the button and, at 53 bags, he was just floating. An extra bag off and he started to climb rapidly upwards into the mist. I’m now flying back tomorrow lunchtime and would very much like to be there to ensure David’s landing is as safe as possible. The track at the moment looks like it will get him over southern Britain and into central Europe. Bert did the balloon prayer just before we left. Bert said, “It went off real well and hopefully he’ll have a great flight. Before he left I recited the following prayer: May the winds welcome you with softness, May the sun welcome you with warm hands, May you fly so high and so well that God joins you in laughter, And may you land gently and into the loving arms of Mother Earth.

Bert added, "Everything was perfect on launch. The winds were not an issue which had been a great concern of mine. The fact David launched so well it now allows him to take over and fly the balloon. I think he was relieved and anxious to get away. It was perfect according to my calculations. He went out with 53 bags. The balloon was designed to cut down as much weight as possible. He was aiming to go up to 5000 ft and then tomorrow he’ll slowly climb up to 6000 ft and then higher each day until, at the end of the flight, he can be up to 13,000 ft. The tracks show it will take about four and a half days, but hopefully it will be faster. I started building the balloon in March and it’s always an emotional moment when the pilot looks you in the eye before launch. There’s a long look, nothing is said, you cut the line and off he goes.”

Posted by Luc at 3:19 AM

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