Preparing the “Aconcagua” balloon in South America

Published on World Wide Ultramagic Team

Ultramagic team prepare the "Aconcagua" balloon in South America.
After completing successful test flights recently in the Dolomite mountain region of Italy, the Aconcagua balloon is now in South America being prepared flight ready to make its next epic flight – over the mountain of the same name Aconcagua – the highest mountain in the Americas.

The team consists of the pilots Josep Mª Lladó and Uwe Schneider with a support team from Spain of Jaume Llansana, Joan Comellas, Maria Neus Gambín, Adriana Lladó, Jaume Ordi, Jaume Cuatrecasas, Toni Diaz, Rafael Vilarrubias, Marc Vilarrubias and Cesc Vilarruvias.
The team is also supported by a local team of Christian Millas, Tomo Hernandez, Francisco Hernandez, Gabriel Mazzini and Mrs Mazzini.

“Aconcagua” is a special hybrid Ultramagic ECOMAGIC balloon which combines the use of Aerofabrix insulated fabric in the top half of the envelope with Ultralast. Whilst not giving the full benefit of total Aerofabrix fabric it does represent a very practical and enduring option for a large balloon about to fly in extreme conditions.

Using the latest Ultramagic FUELTEK fuel measuring instruments fitted to all of the cylinders on board it will be possible to determine very accurately the fuel consumption of this exciting and possible turbulent long distance mountain flight.


The balloon is equipped with 6 tanks of 30 kg enabling a flight from sun rise to sun set to be made. The balloon is also equipped with a special burner arrangement with a double MK-21 and a double Powerplus. Both of the MK-21 burners are also fitted with an additional pilot flame each fed by a gas phase and oxygen. There is also a hydraulic action valve fitted to the MK-21  to enable hands to be kept nice and warm inside the pockets of insulated clothing! The balloon will be flown using a mixture of propane/butane of 40/60 and the tanks will be pressurized with nitrogen to 9 bar.

As well as the cylinders being fitted with the latest FUELTEK 100% fuel measuring instruments, they are also connected to a small computer (pda) to enable precise monitoring of the total fuel used and to determine the remaining total gas volume still available as well as showing the remaining flight time.
The balloon is equipped with 2 transponders mode S, 3 aircraft airband radios and an amateur band radio.  Josep and Uwe will also have an Iridium Satellite Phone that enables a telephone connection to be made anywhere on the planet!
For navigation Josep and Uwe will use 2 Compe Aventura and take 2 Garmin as reserve. The Flight instrument is a Digitool dbi with the Garmins and Aventuras as backup for barometric and GPS altitude. There is also an infrared thermometer as backup for the dbi temperature.
They will carry on board 3 bottles of oxygen, 1 for the pilot lights and 1 each for the oxygen masks. Each pilot has a oxygen system with two masks connected, so in case one fails the pilot can take the 2nd mask of the other system.
They will be taking 2 ELT (emergency transmitters/locators), one new with the 406 frequency and one old with the 121,5 frequency, as Argentina does not work on 406 yet.
As emergency pilot light back up support they will be carrying flares, storm matches, spark throwers, lighters and a highly inflammable spray! Nothing is being left to chance this time!
Finally Josep and Uwe will of course have warm clothing for -25 ºC and some alpine equipment such as helmets, ropes and karabiners. However it is unlikely to be very cold as it is presently summer in South America and FL 180 is expected to be only 0 degrees ºC.
Balloon preparations are now complete and the team are now waiting for the official approvals for the flight from the authorities.

A local test flight is planned to carry out a full system check and the team are waiting for suitable wind conditions. In the meantime the crew are investigating suitable take off site options to be able to react to different wind directions. Although this is a long distance mountain adventure flight it does have some of the ingredients of a competition flight as well – a rather special fly in and fly on!

The team want at their disposal a number of take-off options between 90 and 135 degrees to Aconcagua.  Los Andes is at 80 and thus not ideal, even though they would like to take off from there if it is at all possible.
The team’s exploration journeys so far have led them north of San Felipe and around Puntaeno where they established the 1st launch option at around 90 degrees. At El Tartaro with 98 degrees and El Manzano with 105 degrees they starting to build up a range of launch field options. Alter El Manzo they then headed towards La Vaga where they entered the mountains with no suitable flat fields. From La Vaga they then went east to Alicahue at 115. They then entered a road which on the map is a straight line to the north. They drove in to find themselves climbing up a very bendy road through a cactus desert! At the other end, having passed a 4000 feet hill they found a field in Chincolco at 121 degrees.
So that is the story so far – The balloon is ready – they wait for official permissions – they have a range of launch site options. However with all ballooning there is still one special ingredient still required – suitable weather condition!
Watch this space!!