I recall hearing about a balloon accident on a news programme on TV in the 90s or 2000s. From memory it was some sort of record attempt, and the last telemetry from the flight indicated that the gondola was in free-fall.

I seem to recall a crew of at least two people. I think it happened over the sea, certainly far from where anyone could observe it, hence the need to rely on radio for communication with the crew and telemetry.

At the time of the report it wasn't know exactly what happened or the fate of the crew, but the free-fall telemetry made it sound pretty bad.

Can anyone identify this accident?

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    $\begingroup$ Any more information? Such as the country it happened in? $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Aug 27, 2019 at 11:33
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    $\begingroup$ which sea? There is a lot of sea on the planet! $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Aug 27, 2019 at 11:39
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    $\begingroup$ Are you sure you're not thinking of Steve Fossett who successfully circumnavigated the world in a balloon but then disappeared (never to be found) while flying a light aircraft over the nevada desert? $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Aug 27, 2019 at 11:42
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe you mean this accident? It fits every information you gave except the free fall. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Aug 27, 2019 at 11:45
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think this is answerable without more details. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Aug 27, 2019 at 13:55

1 Answer 1


P 15 of this link describes an incident on July 20 1990 where an unmanned scientific balloon project accidentally experienced a freefall of the payload from 120,000'. Any chance that what you are remembering was this, or something similar?


The 1990 calibration actually consisted of two flights, one on July 20, 1990 and the other on September 6, 1990. A malfunction occurred during the first flight, which resulted in a complete loss of data and a subsequent free fall of the payload from _ 120,000 ft which bent up the tracker assembly and destroyed several cell modules. The tracker was rebuilt, several cells were replaced, and the refurbished payload was flown again in September.

  • $\begingroup$ I've edited in the relevant part from pp15 - links (and especially pdf's) tend to move/get removed so it is good to quote the relevant portions of text that constitute your answer. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Aug 27, 2019 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ It was definitely manned, but thanks anyway. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Aug 27, 2019 at 15:01

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