Vijaypat Singhania’s balloon flight

Vijaypat Singhania soars to 69852 feet height in flight to record. The old World Record for the maximum altitude in a Hot Air Balloon stands in the name of Per Lindstrand, a Swede based in UK. The record stands at 64997 ft. achieved on 6th June 1988, in Plano Texas, USA. The Federation Aeronautique International (FAI), mandates that a record to be recognized must surpass the previous one by at least 3%.

Vijaypat Singhania, industrialist and aviator, climbed to height of 69852 ft in a hot air balloon on Saturday Noveber 26, setting a new world record. The record so far was 65000 ft.

One of the challenges of the balloon flight was to keep the burners going at the high altitude. In some earlier missions, the burners flamed out at the steep heights, since oxygen is practically absent in higher atmosphere.

The balloon flight project was headed by two British balloonists, Andy Elson and Colin Prescot. The project was managed by Captain MR Wadia, a decorated officer of the Indian Air Force. Andy has earlier made balloons for NASA, while Prescot has helped performed balloon stunts in some James Bond movies.

The hot air balloon contraption itself had two components, one the balloon itself (called the envelope) and the capsule, which houses the pilot. The capsule, which is the flight cockpit, houses an array of equipment, including an altimeter, barograph, GPS systems, oxygen cylinders, fuel control system, transponders, satellite phones, telemetry equipment, video transmitters and four cameras. The capsule was pressurised and oxygenated, armed by life support systems. The entire space flight was monitored by a mission control centre on ground.

Singhania’s seat in the cockpit was more like that of a racing car, providing lateral, head and spinal protection. The balloon was also fitted with a parachute externally, which would be automatically activated in case of an emergency.

Vijaypat Singhania wore specially-designed cotton overalls during his trip to the edge of space.

What about food aboard the balloon? Singhania carried chocolates and water with him to help him through the aerial journey.

At a height of 70,000 feet, Mr Singhania was closer to the space than earth. At this height, a spacesuit is recommended, but Vijaypat Singhania could not wear it due to his age. At this height, one can catch a glimpse of the curvature of the earth, just like from a spaceship.

The earlier world record of flying high in a hot air balloon is held by a Swede – Per Lindstrand, who climbed to 64997 feet in a balloon.

With this balloon flight, Vijaypat Singhania has also beaten his own earlier record of flying in a balloon to 29400 feet. That time, he rose to the skies from Ahmedabad. On June 14 this year, he took off on a balloon 30 miles west of the Ahmedabad, and hovered in the skies for over two hours, before landing at Sabarkanta.

Vijayapat Singhania is chairman emeritus of Raymond, one of the premier business groups in India. He is also a sports enthusiast, aviator, philanthropist and adventurer.

Vijaypat Singhania had earlier won the round-the-world-race in a Cessna, besides the Microlite record in 1988. Singhania has flying experience over 5000 hours spread across four decades.

Singhania, 67, lifted off at 6:45 a.m today, in a specially-designed nylon balloon from the polo ground of a race course in India’s commercial hub of Mumbai. He reached at a record hight of 69,852 feet at about 8.55 a.m. and then landed at a place named sinner between Nashik and Shirdi at 11:25 a.m.