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Public’s Help Needed to Find Missing Balloon Payload in Marshall County

January 7, 2014

  01/08/14 The public’s assistance is requested in recovering a paper aircraft that went missing after launching from a high-altitude balloon and likely landed in Marshall County, Indiana. A reward will be issued to anyone finding and returning the 28-inch fluorescent pink paper aircraft and payload.

On Saturday, December 28, 2013, Fox Valley Composite Squadron (a unit of the Civil Air Patrol based in West Chicago, IL) launched the paper airplane aboard a large, high-altitude, helium balloon from Kankakee Airport in hopes of breaking the Guinness World Record for “Highest Paper Airplane Flight from a High-Altitude Balloon”. The project was started as a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) project for the unit’s cadet members (youth ages 12-17).

The team was able to track the aircraft’s progress via a real-time telemetry and GPS tracking system. Everything was progressing nicely, but, just Northwest of Plymouth, IN, as it ascended through 85,153 feet – just 4,438 feet shy of the existing 89,591 foot record – both the balloon and aircraft appeared to experience a failure that sent everything descending back to Earth. The aircraft descended through 54,981 feet where it then stopped reporting location and altitude… information critical to recovery of the aircraft; But the aircraft’s telemetry continued to broadcast data for another eight minutes before it too was lost. Subsequent Civil Air Patrol flights over the area failed to get a “hit” on the aircraft’s locator transmitter.

But by analyzing the flight’s “forensic data” – the flight path, telemetry information and historical weather – the team was able to forecast an area where the aircraft and payload are likely to have landed [see attached image]. The team is sharing this information with the public in hopes that everyone in (and around) the area will check their properties for the missing paper aircraft and electronics payload.

A reward is being offered to anyone who finds and returns the paper aircraft and payload to the squadron. The object is a large, 28-inch wingspan, fluorescent pink, aircraft made of cardboard and poster-board [see attached photo]. The aircraft contains a styrofoam payload section that houses the GPS tracking system, HD video camera, flight computer and batteries. Considering that the aircraft may be covered by recent snowfall, delaying searches till after the first melt may be advisable.

If anyone discovers this paper aircraft and/or any of its contents, please contact:


1st Lt Gary Brown

Near-Space Balloon Project Manager

PHONE: (630) 660-8231