Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Balloon Record Set In Russia!

On November 20, 2004 one Russian guy, Vitaly Kulikov, set a new world record for highest ever flight. He reached a height of 5470 m on a bunch of 800 toy balloons filled with helium. Thus, Vitaly broke the record of three years ago belonging to Ian Ashpole and included in the Guinness Book of Records. The Englishman managed to reach a height of only 3350 m. Besides, he couldn’t land his “aircraft” and had to use a parachute.
Kulikov’s flight was a greater success, even though it took place in really extreme conditions – a terrible blizzard struck on that day. The wind speed near the ground was more than 160 km/h. Even planes don’t fly in such weather. They are simply blown away from the strip…

That’s how a takeoff ground looked in November.

The MAZ with helium.

From Vitaly’s words: “One day, I wanted to do something cool and I thought: why not to fly on balloons? The physics of the process was clear and simple to me as I was a physicist. All that I needed to know for the calculations was the density of air and hydrogen. The difference between them gives the value of the lift.”

“I started to choose balloons. They had to satisfy two conditions: to be strong and as cheap as possible. The purchase of all equipment required about $6.500 and I decided not to bother sponsors and finance the project independently. Thank God, my salary allowed me to do this.”

“I started to develop the project. I learned on the Internet that some Ian Ashpole had already flown on toy balloons and even set a world record. At first I thought “What a bummer! I won’t be the first man who set a record for flying on balloons” but then I realized that this wasn’t actually that bad as I could export and optimize some of his ideas.”

‘But the main thing that I found out was that people flew exactly as I imagined. The fear that something wouldn’t work has gone.”

“The first flight took place on September 25, 2004. I reached a height of 400 meters holding on 360 balloons filled with hydrogen, was in the air for 25 minutes and landed safely 8.5 km far from the launch pad. The flight gave me an enormous experimental material. After it I was absolutely sure that I would break Ashpole’s record.”

“By November everything was ready for the second flight. I decided to replace hydrogen with helium. Fortunately, I found a sponsor who provided me with the required amount of it. Initially, there were 1300 balloons and 60 gas cylinders. A team of 15 people assembled my “aircraft” for more than 6 hours. About 100 balloons were blown away.”

Automatic unloading.

At first, a bunch of balloons was tied to the device driven in the ground.

Then it was decided to tie  it to the MAZ. The driver was seriously concerned about his car…

Vitaly instructs people how to properly inflate the balloons. At this time there were much more onlookers than at the previous one.

The weather was getting worse with each passing hour…

The wind literally knocked down those who dragged a bunch of 10 balls…

The main bunch was becoming bigger and bigger.

Vitaly’s going to take off.

Some questions and advice…

“I was tossed up like a feather. A lifting speed reached 7 meters per second. I wasn’t sure if I would go up high enough but as I was rising higher and higher my doubts were gradually disappearing.”

“The fact that my balloons were filled with helium in different proportions turned out to be the key to success. Unlike the balloons of the Englishman which all burst at once, mine were bursting gradually at different heights.”

“15 minutes after the start, when I reached the ceiling of 5740 meters (I photographed the display of the altimeter), I began descending. In total I spent a little more than half an hour in the air.”

“Height – 200 m. The wind suddenly changes direction and I realize that I’m rushing at the speed of a light-engine aircraft (162 km/h) towards the wood. There was no fear. There was a clear understanding that this is the end. Even a trained person isn’t able to withstand such an impact against the trees. My arms are crossed, fists are clenched and the whole body is tense. Soon I’ll be tore to shreds, and 3 seconds later I will die. God, help me, help me please…
The first blow was so strong that a branch, as thick as my hand, was easily cut off with my body. My back got the main hit, but the spine was not broken – the result of a great preparation + clothes + parachute + miracle. Flying further I get new blows from all sides. I don’t quite understand why I’m still alive. Another terrible blow but I manage to grab the trunk of a tree with both hands and stop. I’m alive… and this is a miracle!”

Some faces of the participants.

Preparing for the rescue operation.

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