Vienna Wireless Society's recent balloon launch & recovery

andre kesteloot andre.kesteloot at
Tue Dec 25 10:50:44 CST 2007

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	Vienna Wireless Society's recent balloon launch & recovery
Date: 	Tue, 25 Dec 2007 06:05:11 -0500
From: 	Richard Rucker <rrucker at>
To: 	Undisclosed-recipients: <>;
References: 	<002701c8468c$71677330$0201a8c0 at HFU8>

This was a pretty amazing flight: launched from near Strasburg, VA,  
reached nearly 84K ft, then landed in Vienna, VA, just a few miles  
from the homes of those who were involved in its planning, assembly,  
and launch.

John Birch, KA4YMA, plucked the package and parachute out of tall tree  
later that afternoon. See his story below as captured from several  

You can see photos of the launch and recovery here:

Though VWS's website has not yet been updated to tell the rest of the  
story, I'm sure that it soon will be:

At the end of this message, you can see three screen shots that  
summarize the flight for me. The APRS tracking site I was watching was  
this one in Finland:

Dick Rucker, KM4ML
a fascinated bystander via the Internet

Begin forwarded messages:

> Sheila & everyone at the landing site,
>     Actually, [the name of the homeowner], did give us permission to  
> even cut down the tree.
>     When I was a child, my mother wisely forbad us to climb on any  
> limb thinner than our own wrist.  My brother violated this wisdom  
> while we were climbing in our back yard willow, and fell to earth  
> still holding the branch, getting the breath knocked out of him, and  
> impressing me with that guidance for the rest of my life.

>     So when I could not safely reach the blue payloads from its  
> distant tangling dangling perch on such a limb, I took the liberty  
> of sawing it off for the folk on the ground to extricate.

>     Speaking of whom, I was surprised by the applause, and remiss,  
> in not thanking the folk who helped me while I was aloft.  I thank  
> them now, for they hoisted, anchored & minded my life line, provided  
> supplies, and made a fun but uncomfortable and precarious task  
> safer, and a lot more comfortable.
>   73 & joy to all,     John Birch KA4YMA -

>> From: "jrb" <jbirch at>
>> Tom,
>>   I probably should have spent some time describing to the  
>> spectators what I was planning and doing, but I usually have 2  
>> anchors to near-by branches, attached to my harness, and of course  
>> I anchor before I even get off the life-line.
>> 73,     John Birch KA4YMA -

>>> also jrb wrote:
>>> Rich,
>>>  I do have qualms about stunts like that in 'public', since there  
>>> is always the chance that someone will see the task as 'easily  
>>> done' and presume they can do it safely without considerable  
>>> training, experience and very special equipment.  That said, I  
>>> have many years of similar experience in fire, mountain, and cave  
>>> rescue, but have modified some of those techniques to apply to  
>>> trees, only in my own back yard, and this was the first practical  
>>> use other than my own tree trimming efforts over the past few years.
>>>   For this, I chose a dynamic climbing rope which is rated at  
>>> about 25 times my body weight (my rescue ropes are about twice  
>>> that, but static), and used a couple of ascending devices which  
>>> will slide only one way on the rope. Once in the branches, and off  
>>> the rope, I was always anchored by special appliances called  
>>> slings, even while moving about, in case I should lose my balance,  
>>> footing, or grip.  Returning to the ground, I used a descent  
>>> control friction amplifier or rappel device, which allowed me to  
>>> easily control my rate of descent safely to the grass.  I should  
>>> also mention that although none of the folk on the ground, who  
>>> helped maneuver the rope etc. had any special training (the  
>>> neighbor who offered some additional climbing gear, which I  
>>> inspected and used, seemed have some rock climbing experience), so  
>>> I made sure I always had visual control of every aspect of my  
>>> safety equipment and their actions.
>>>   I hope your inner and outer child enjoyed the spectacle and the  
>>> many other aspects of amateur radio (this being a fairly unusual  
>>> one) and join us at a meeting or mission (I think I recognize your  
>>> call from somewhere nearby).  Our activities are listed on our  
>>> website at
>>>   I pray you enjoy your family and the holidays.
>>> 73, John Birch KA4YMA -


__________ NOD32 2746 (20071225) Information __________

This message was checked by NOD32 antivirus system.

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