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Playmonauts could down airliners, Canuck flyboy warns

Amateur balloon mission menace

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A Canadian pilot has warned that audacious miniature figurine balloon missions could represent a "concern to aviation".

Captain Barry Wiszniowski, chairman of the Air Canada Pilots Association’s safety division, issued his alert following the recent Canuck Legonaut's ascent to 80,000ft (24,384m), which saw teenagers Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad claim a slice of the upper atmosphere for their country.

Wiszniowski said: "I think in the 25 years that I’ve been flying I’ve seen two weather balloons that passed on one side of the aircraft or the other."

Not exactly a major threat to air traffic, then, but the flyboy insists that pilots "might not have enough reaction time if such a balloon popped up unexpectedly", and the results of an engine ingesting a large latex sphere could be serious.

Although Canadian Aviation Regulations don't cover amateur balloons, anyone wanting to hit the heights should inform Transport Canada before launching.

Ho and Muhammad did their homework before letting sending their Lego man on his way, to ensure they "weren’t doing anything dangerous or illegal". However, Ho admitted: "We got very lucky that nothing happened because there is always the possibility that something could go wrong."

For the record, El Reg's Paper Aircraft Released Into Space team, whose Vulture 1 aircraft and Playmonaut soared to a dizzying 89,591ft (27,307m) above Spain, had the necessary permission from local authority AENA for its launch.

Given that PARIS was the first high-altitude figurine mission, Ho's advice to wannabe balloonists raised a smile down here at Vulture Central. He said: "Try not to copy us. Pursue other creative interests and do your own thing and follow the rules." ®

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