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22nd November 2005

Dr Singhania gets ready for take off. Preview of the capsule and Envelope at Polo Ground, Mahalakshmi Race Course

Come November 26, 2005, Dr. Vijaypat Singhania, renowned industrialist and aviator par excellence will undertake his much awaited adventure MI70K. He will attempt to ‘touch the face of God’ by becoming the first man to fly a hot air balloon to a height of 70,000 feet above sea level (above 21,000 meters), a world record height. This feat will take place at Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai. Dr. Singhania with this death defying feat, aims to break the existing world record set for ‘High Altitude in a Hot Air Balloon’ by Per Lindstrand who reached a height of 64,997 feet (19,811 metres) in Plano, Texas, USA on June 6, 1988.


The equipment has been imported from London and is being set by up by the technical team.

The experts from his team have been studying and recording the weather conditions for every 1000 ft of atmosphere for the past 10 years day-by-day, minute-by-minute and hour-by-hour. The size of the balloon and date & time of ascent has been decided on the basis of this analysis.

Dr. Vijaypat Singhania’s Hot Air Balloon in which he is going to embark on his mission consists of:
• A pressurized and insulated CAPSULE called ‘Gondola’
• The Balloon called ‘ENVELOPE’, designed by Don Cameron, well-renowned balloon designer
• There are eighteen ‘BURNERS’ of different capacity and design. The capsule will be equipped with 3 fuel tanks, two filled with kerosene and one filled with propane.


The pilot (Dr. Singhania) will be located in this pressurized insulated Gondola, containing all the systems required to sustain him for the duration of the flight and any necessary pre and post flight periods.

The gondola is a welded aluminium single skin pressure vessel comprising of commercial grade aluminium torispherical spun ends welded to a cylindrical section

The capsule is fitted with a single acrylic dome, as part of the side access hatch, and there will be 5 additional flat plate acrylic windows for visibility. The clear unobstructive viewing area will me max 225mm diameter

The height of the capsule is around 2.2 metres and it is around 1.4 metres in diameter. The capsule weighs around 560kgs

Located on lightened welded aluminium base ring, the capsule is fitted with internal thermal insulation, and external heat reflective paint.

The capsule is also equipped with necessary safety devices, should Dr. Singhania be forced to abort his mission due to inclement weather conditions. The capsule is fitted with state-of-art instrumentation and control systems for navigation and other life support and fuel systems.

To determine what altitude the balloon had actually attained, a sealed barometer, approved by Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) is installed both outside and inside the capsule. On landing, this barometer will indicate the height reached by the balloon and would determine the entry of the record in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Some of the other attachments include: Two vertical speed indicators, Altometers (for measuring altitude), a camera, a satellite phone, 2 VHF radios, 2 GPS system, 2 transponders for communicating with Air Traffic Control, a Life support system and a CO2 scrubber.

The capsule pressure will be controlled by means of mechanical pressure relief valves, but the internal environment will essentially only be controlled by means of thermal insulation and atmospheric regeneration.

The pilot will be located in a proprietary racing car seat, providing suitable lateral, spinal and head protection and support. The whole seat will be provided with a simple energy absorption device capable of absorbing the specified vertical decelerations thus minimizing the risk of pilot injury.

The capsule is provided with a tested and simple to operate cutaway system to release the balloon due to either, a balloon malfunction, or during normal landing when the pilot may wish to release the balloon, to prevent the capsule being dragged along.

The cutaway system uses the method of pyrotechnic cutters that will be used to severe a cable that holds the balloon attachment.

This system is connected to a nitrogen bottle explosive stored within the capsule. The nitrogen bottle explosive will be activated by the press of a button on the control board by the pilot. This activates the trigger, which in turn fires the bullet that activates the cutter to sever the cable that holds the balloon attachment. The entire process takes about 1/10th of a second

The capsule is fitted with a proprietary cargo parachute –approx 1 tonne design payload, located externally. This emergency parachute will be connected to the main balloon connection points on the capsule.

The parachute will be armed automatically following balloon release. In an event of a high altitude emergency, requiring the balloon to be cutaway, the capsule will be allowed to free fall at a rate of 1400-1600 ft per minute before deploying the main parachute at 25,000ft.


The huge multi-coloured balloon is made of 67,250 square feet of specially made light nylon, allows the balloon to gain altitude without much difficulty.

The Balloon or the Envelope is designed out of a specially crafted nylon fabric (1/3rd the thickness of a normal nylon sari) –weight of the fabric is approx 35gms

The size of the Balloon is around 1.6 cubic million ft and the capacity of air required to float the balloon is around 80,000 kgs (80tonnes)

The Height of the Balloon is around 160 ft (approximate height equivalent to a 20-strey building)

The fabric has been designed to be rip-proof with steel rods woven inside the fabric after every 1cm (not visible to human eye)

The balloon will be inflated by blowing air into it using portable fans and it will take about 2.5 hours to reach its full size.

The weight of the entire Hot-air Balloon (including the Gondola, the envelope, 18 burners and other apparatus) is around 1,820 kgs.


There are 18 fuel burners of different capacity and design used for inflating the balloon. All flight burners and the landing burners are located on a rigid stainless steel tubular frame approx 1-1.5m above the top of the capsule.

Three fuel tanks – two filled with kerosene (standard Jet 1 Fuel) used for ascent and one filled with propane used for descent are also mounted onto the capsule externally.


On November 26, 2005 the flight is scheduled to take-off from Polo Grounds, Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mumbai at around 7:00am in the morning immediately after sunrise.

A control room is being set up to monitor the mission. A flight director, trajectory director, an air-traffic controller and other officials from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) would man the entire mission.

During the flight, the team MI-70K would be constantly in touch with Dr. Singhania through a VHF radio, transponder, satellite phones and Global positioning System (GPS) specially attached to the capsule.

The Indian Army and Indian Air Force would be on a standby on the day of the take-off incase of any emergency.

The atmospheric pressure at sea level is 1,013.2 mbs while at 70000 ft it is 40 mbs (the temperature at 70, 000 ft is around –95?C). It would naturally be impossible to breath normally at these pressures and if one were to be exposed to the elements even briefly the human blood would boil.

During take-off, there would be just six kerosene burners supplying power. As Dr. Singhania climbs through 40,000 ft., all 18 burners would be working at full capacity.

He will climb until all these burners are snuffed out, in a likely “ripple effect” experienced at high altitudes.

The balloon will continue its climb, slowing all the time, a condition known as “the dwell”, like the trajectory of a huge shell.

During the “cold descent” it will reach rates of 2500 feet per minute at speeds of up to 30 mph.

As it reaches denser atmosphere at 30,000 ft, the descent starts to slow down. By 10,000 ft, it is expected to decline to 1500/2000 feet per minute.

The kerosene burners, once extinguished, cannot be re-ignited in the air, and the fuel will need to be shut off, lest it drench the capsule and burn it.

Dr. Singhania can light his propane burners at 10,000 ft to slow his descent, and begin looking for a place to land, avoiding power lines, populated areas, lakes, and forests, being always aware that the balloon he is flying, weighing 40 tons, is bigger than any balloon he has ever flown before.

The entire duration of the flight is expected to be around five hours (Time to be taken to reach the height of 70,000ft: 3.5 hours: Time to be taken to descent: 1.5 hours).

During the entire flight the balloon would be tracked and assisted by ground controllers at “mission control”.

The descent of the balloon entirely depends upon prevailing wind conditions and according to the predictions of the technical team; Dr. Vijaypat Singhania will be landing in an area between Nashik and Sangamner.

After a successful landing an elaborate team of ground crew would retrieve the pilot and his equipment from the landing site.


The present holder Per Lindstrand is believed to have said that his record cannot be broken due to the technical difficulties of operating in the rarified atmosphere, of 70000 ft. when one would virtually be on the fringes of space.

The atmospheric pressure at sea level is 1013.2 mbs. while at 70000 ft it is 40 mbs. It would naturally be impossible to breath normally at these pressures and if one were to be exposed to the elements even briefly the human blood would boil.


One of the biggest challenges is to keep the burners going in an atmosphere virtually devoid of oxygen. During the last record-breaking flight, it is believed the burners flamed out at about 60000 ft. Innovative means need to be devised to overcome this crucial problem.

09 November 2005 - Dr Singhania carries out final test flights at Nashik
11 October 2005 Dr - Singhania carries out test flights in UK and France
13 June 2005 - Dr Singhania sets the Indian Altitude record from a village west of Ahmedabad by scaling 29,044 ft
April 2005 - A few test flights at Palghar, a small town north of Mumbai and thereafter in Jalgaon and Mt. Abu and Dr Singhania was ready to fly!
January 2005 - Dr Singhania gets his first taste of hot air ballooning in Mondovi, Italy