Trans Atlantic Crossing
Teaming up with Richard Branson, Per Lindstrand made a bid to fly a hot air balloon across the Atlantic. His proposal for the Atlantic crossing was to fly high and fast in the jet stream from Maine, USA to the British Isles. The giant hot air balloon which he built at his factory in Oswestry would lift himself and Branson high into the jetstream. The pressurised aluminium capsule was surrounded with propane fuel tanks to feed the burners and once up to altitude, the heat of the sun kept the balloon up during the day with the burners taking over at night.
After a year of hard work and long hours the Virgin Atlantic Flyer left the factory for America in early June, on time for the midsummer flight from its launch site at ‘Sugar Loaf’ inland from the coast of Maine. On the evening of the 1st July the massive balloon was inflated with ground fans and hand-held burners until it rotated to stand vertical over the capsule. In the early hours of the 2nd July Per and Richard rose into the sky heading for the jetstream at 27,000 feet. Travelling at over 130 knots (241 kph) the balloon headed straight into an Atlantic cold front. Holding the altitude and riding it out 4 hours later Per, Richard and the balloon burst through the gloom into evening sunshine. Thirty two hours after take off they crossed the coast of Northern Ireland and, due to fog conditions in Scotland, their defined route, they decided to put down in Ireland.
With a strong offshore wind they overshot the beach and came down in the sea half a mile offshore. With the imminent danger of the capsule filling with water and submerging Per and Richard decided to abandon ship and jumped into the sea being rescued by helicopter.
The 75,000 cubic metre Virgin Atlantic Flyer had taken off from America on the 2nd of July 1987 and landed 3,075 miles away in Ireland 31 hours and 41 minutes later on the 3rd, travelling at an average speed of 97mph. These figures shattered the existing standard of long distance ballooning and set a whole new benchmark as well as proving Per’s concept that a pressurized capsule could allow a massive balloon to fly high and fast into the jetstream where the sun provided thermal lift.
Ballooning would never be the same again.
Hot Air Balloon Altitude Record
A year later, Per Lindstrand set yet another record, this time for highest solo flight ever recorded in a hot air balloon – 65,000 feet (19 812m)!
Trans Pacific Crossing
Having conquered the Atlantic in a hot air balloon in such a spectacular way, the next Richard and Per challenge would be crossing the Pacific which was twice the distance. Whilst the Atlantic crossing was in the summer, the Pacific had to be conquered in the winter due to the nature of the jetstream.
The first attempt was planned for November/December 1989 but during the launch the giant envelope froze to the ground and when inflated ripped open cancelling the flight. Since manufacturing the envelope took 4 to 5 months the next attempt was scheduled for November/December 1990 but the launch team had to wait until the middle of January 1991 until the correct weather pattern was established in the Pacific. In the very early hours of January 15th the worlds biggest hot air balloon lifted off its launch pad in Miyakonogo in Southern Japan and in less than an hour of flying it was in the centre of the Pacific jetstream travelling at speeds over 200 knots (370 kph).
The target for the flight was Northern California but half way between the dateline and the US coast the jet stream changed its track delivering the balloon to the arctic wasteland of Canada landing 45 hours later in the North West Territories over 200 miles from the nearest road. This was the longest track flown by any balloon ever but the flight was not without drama as this was before satellite navigation and communication. All radio communication was blocked out by solar eruptions for 7 hours and later in the flight a fire broke out on top of the capsule which could only be extinguished by climbing to 41,000 feet starving the fire of oxygen.
To this day nobody else has undertaken this hot air balloon flight. The distance and duration hot air balloon record remains unchallenged. A record breaking flight in every sense of the Word.
Only a few hours after landing the Pacific Flyer in Northern Canada, Richard and Per started to discuss a complete circumnavigation of the world in a balloon. In the spring of 1995 Richard and Per sat down and planned the Global Challenger. Whereas the previous 2 Trans-Oceanic flights were with hot air, this time it would have to be a helium balloon with lot longer endurance. In order to insert the balloon into the jetstream lift off had to be from Northern Africa and the team settled on Marrakech in Morocco.
The Global balloon was ready on site in January 1996 but the required Global weather pattern failed to establish itself that winter. The team went back to Marrakech for the winter 1996/1997 and lifted off on the 4th January. Unfortunately, due to the very rushed inflation the balloon was released with incorrect fuel couplings forcing Richard and Per to land the next morning in Algeria. Since an envelope of its size would self destruct on landing no further attempt could be made until November 1997. On the 9th November inflation took place in broad daylight in order to catch a very narrow weather slot and the thermals created by the desert heat caused the envelope to tear away from its moorings and that was the end for that season.
Unfortunately in January 1998 the third pilot on board, Alex Ritchie was fatally injured during parachute training. Alex had been a key member of every balloon attempt, a uniquely gifted engineer and this was a great loss. Later in the year Steve Fossett, having lost his balloon in the waters of New Caledonia, was invited to join the team. The Global balloon inflated for the last time in the early hours of 18th December 1998 and Richard, Per and Steve began an 8 day journey that took them across Northern Africa, Cyprus, Turkey then along side the Himalayan chain exiting China over the Yellow Sea crossing Japan right over the Miyakonojo, the site of the Pacific launch, and by now the flight seem invincible. The Global balloon past the dateline at 140 knots but by now the trough was building just to the east of Hawaii forming a barrier for the jetstream and eventually causing the balloon to start travelling backwards towards Japan. The decision was taken to land in the waters outside Hawaii which terminated the flight after 8 days. With hindsight we now know that had they stayed airborne they would have successfully finished the Global Challenge in Northern Africa.
The experience gained from these records were for the foundation for developing different lighter than air technologies (from inflatable hanger to satellite test chamber), including HiFlyer (technical name for Balloon Tallinn), that Lindstrand Technologies Ltd. is famous for today. The knowhow gained from engineering, manufacturing and flying the balloons for the record-breaking flights across the oceans, is the best you can have in the world.
In 1999, in partnership with Daimler Chrysler Aerospace of Germany, Lindstrand Technologies Ltd. was awarded a design contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a high altitude long endurance airship for possible use in the telecommunications market. As a result of this, and having more than 20 years’ experience of lighter-than-air technology, Per was awarded the German-based Körber Prize for engineering excellence.
In 2002, Lindstrand Technologies Ltd. was awarded the contract to design and manufacture the parachute for the planned Mars landing – Marslander, Beagle 2. This was to be the most advanced parachute in the world and was delivered to the ESA in December 2002. The lander was launched in June 2003, the parachute deployed successfully, and Beagle 2 landed on Mars on Christmas Day.
In February 2006, Per was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for his highly innovative work in the field of inflatables and their application to habitable structures.
In May 2009, Per was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the AIAA Lighter-than-Air Technical Committee (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics). This Award is given to those who, by their achievements, have contributed in a major way to the advancement of the science, operations, or manufacturing associated with buoyant flight. Per is the first non American citizen to receive this award in the history of the AIAA.
In 2010 Lindstrand Technologies Ltd. Built the largest tethered aerostat known as AeroTorus built to date. Five kilometres (over 6 tonnes) of fabric were required to make the structure, to build the helium filled structure which would “float” above a stadium in New Delhi, India as part of the Opening Ceremony of the 19th Commonwealth Games held in October 2010.
The Beginning of Balloon Tallinn
The history of the Balloon Tallinn project goes back to 2004, when meeting with Per Lindstrand took place in England. His passion of flying, and first of all ballooning, and reaching beyond the limits in the ballooning was so inspirational that kindled the dream to bring such an emotional endeavour in the form of HiFlyer to Tallinn, Estonia.
Balloon Tallinn project involved numerable challenges varying from bureaucracy to financing, and the preparations were made to launch the project in 2 different locations in Tallinn throughout the last 10 years. Per visited Tallinn multiple times to personally check the best locations for the success of the project.
Launch of Balloon Tallinn
Finally, the preparations for launching the project on the third location (current Balloon Tallinn location) started in early 2013.
Final launch of the Balloon Tallinn project started in spring 2014 and the preparation of the site for the installation of the balloon and the supporting facilities.
More than 130 tons of concrete was poured into the ground to prepare the landing platform, anchoring points and to build whole infrastructure for supporting the balloon operation.
Lindstrand engineers testing the mooring winches to meet the requirements this made to all the 32 mooring point.
The enormous amount of helium (6500 m3), that was needed to inflate the balloon, was brought in high-pressure tanks with special vehicles that drove here from Kazakstan. Until now, this commercial transaction of helium made for filling the Balloon Tallinn is the single largest high purity helium deal in world market of this year.
Team of flight operators and the Lindstrand trainer at site.
The inflation of the balloon took place on the late hours of Friday, the 16th of May 2014.
Pull tests and technical check-ups were carried out throughout following days, Lindstrand team and local constructors working days and nights.
The first test flight was successfully performed on the 20th of May 2014.
From 13th of May till 9th of June the training of flight operators took place in form of classroom studies and practise on site, which was still under lot of construction. All flight operators are certified operators by the Lindstrand factory.
Balloon Tallinn Today
Balloon Tallinn balloon is a unique attraction in the whole world, currently approximately 10 other HiFlyers like Balloon Tallinn are in operation globally, adding to approximately 20 more including the alternative manufacturers.
This makes Balloon Tallinn the most Northern located tethered balloon in the world.
On 2nd October, Tallinn acknowledged the most prominent entrepreneurs and entrepreneurships at a formal awards ceremony during Tallinn Entrepreneurship Day 2014 that took place already for 11th time. Tourism Award of the Year was given to Balloon Tallinn.
On 5th October Per Lindstrand came to see for the first time the newest Hiflyer Balloon Tallinn in operation and to meet our team and journalists.