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How our shaken Reg Playmonaut survived a 113,000ft stratodangle

White knuckle ride in CHAV paper plane

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Before Saturday's high-altitude adventure, the entire LOHAN team gathered around the CHAV for a historic group snap, and here for your viewing pleasure are (from L-R) rocket motor botherer Paul Shackleton, custom igniter geezer Rob Eastwood, apprentice boffin Katarina Haines Barbosa, improbably lightweight tracker guru Anthony Stirk, SPEARS board wrangler Neil Barnes, hydrogen head honcho Dave "Pi In The Sky" Akerman and Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) vet John Oates:

The test flight team pose with the payload before the flight

With both SPEARS and CHARM nestled in the payload box, Paul connected the igniter (indicated), and wrapped the PIC around the nylon cord holding the CHAV (pic by Neil's other half Anita Wegner)...

Paul Shackleton connects the igniter, which is tied to the payload box. Pic: Anita Wegner

...after which Anthony indulged in some last-minute tweaking...

Anthony Stirk and the payload just before launch, as seen from the main payload camera

...and it was onwards and upwards:

The CHAV aircraft just after launch, from the main payload camera

Another shot from the main payload camera, as the CHAV ascends

The CHAV rises above Brightwalton, as seen from the main payload camera

In the following still at around 18,000m (60,000ft), you can see that the static line (visible hanging below the CHAV) has wrapped itself round the parachute lines. Although the static line was attached to the top of the 'chute system by a short length of cotton thread, which would break as the CHAV dropped free and pull the static line taut, this thread was effectively bypassed by the tangle, meaning the CHAV would be left dangling.

The CHAV aircraft seen from the main payload camera at 60,000ft

And so it turned out, but not before the igniter failed to burn through the release cord, and the CHAV finally detached at balloon burst, as the high-altitude turmoil snapped off the aircraft's steel wire attachment loop.

This must have been highly entertaining for our poor old Playmonaut, who at least got to enjoy this spectacular view at around 33,500m (110,000ft), before his day got considerably more exciting:

The view from the CHAV Picam at peak altitude

The nose-mounted Raspberry Picam worked magnificently throughout, and here's another image from the CHAV as it approached the ground just south of Perham Down on the edge of Salisbury Plain:

The view from the CHAV Picam as the aircraft approaches the ground

Among the last images CHAV transmitted before recovery were of the tree which cushioned its landing, and a great pic of Paul Shackleton easing the aircraft from the canopy...

The CHAV Picam view of the tree and Paul Shackleton as he extracts the aircraft from the canopy

...although it also grabbed a video sequence of the flight's last moments, which you can enjoy at the end of this rough cut of the flight:

Watch Video

The team was delighted to recover the payload, CHAV and Playmonaut...

The LOHAN team poses after the flight

...and the minor damage to the aircraft - a bent starboard wing-tip and a couple of small holes in the paper skin - bears witness to the robustness of its construction.

The CHAV could conceivably fly again, if our Playmonaut's willing to give it another go, but we'd probably send it aloft somewhere which doesn't require a parachute descent. We shall see...®


Further LOHAN resources:

  • New to LOHAN? Try this mission summary for enlightenment.
  • You can find full LOHAN coverage right here.
  • Join the expert LOHAN debate down at Reg forums.
  • All the LOHAN and Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) vids live on YouTube.
  • For our SPB photo archive, proceed directly to Flickr.
  • We sometimes indulge in light consensual tweeting, as you can see here.

LOHAN - A Special Projects Bureau production in association with...

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  • University of Southampton logo
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