Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Skywalker Project

So I obviously don't have enough going on right now and have started another project at work because enough people have finally asked and it is one I have always wanted to do.

The Skywalker as I am calling it for now (Hi to all the Lawyers that work for George Lucas...) is also known as a Cloud hopper. This is a single person balloon designed to be light weight, fun to fly, easy to transport, fun to fly, perfect for people with no friends but wanting to attract friends and of course fun to fly.

So far I have done the initial design work on the envelopes that we will offer. As of now they are 25, 31 and 35,000 cu.ft models based on the B type Kavanagh shape. They are 24 gore envelopes with a reduction in panel 1 and 2 so there is only 12 rigging points. The first design images are shown above.

Take a step back in time..
Before this all started up, many many years ago I made a really rough little toy from scrap fabric. This envelope known as "Luke" was a 21 also based on the B type shape but with a full 24 gores and straight cut panels - it has no bulge in the gores and is not anything like the production models I am now working on.

It was drawn and cut in about the same day and sewn together over a few more days between everything else that goes on in the factory. It was flown over a very old T&C bottom end lent to us by Kiff Saunders.

We made it so we could take some video of Smart Vents opening and closing for a court case that also happened in the deep dark past. It was also used for looking at new innovations in deflation systems that have not been stolen yet. Honestly, I have moved on..

Anyhow, lots of folks have requested photos of the 21 so here they are. Unfortunately there are not many pictures as a) it was never certified and as such has only ever been tethered here at the factory and once in Leeton back in 2004 and b) the whole point was to take pictures and video from it and as such it was never the star of the show. There are however a few classics of me next to a 350 or 400 (I could look it up but...) at the factory as well as Tem having a play in Leeton.

When looking at the above photos I can not stress enough, it was not ever done as a production balloon and had none of our normal attention to detail in the patterns or design and as such has all those nice wrinkles and stress lines at the mouth. The colours are literally are as they came out of the scrap bin. Despite all that, it flew really well.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sky Orchestra wrap up

So back to the real world for a few days at least. The Sky orchestra flights are over and we did pretty well with the weather - 5 flights out of 6 scheduled days. Not bad for a Sydney summer which is normally hot and windy.

I had some fun on the second last flight having finally got around to sorting out my suspended camera rig. It is probably a bit vain taking pictures of myself while flying but hey, worth doing just so I could get the following image after I fell out of the basket! The photos were taken with my 350D mounted in a plastic tool box and suspended on two lines from the envelope. I can raise or lower the camera and also bring it back to the basket if I want.

It was great the way that everyone was working as a team after only a few flights and by the last morning if you were not touching envelopes then you were working hard to get back to the pack. The last flight provided a box so we were able to cruise out over Parramatta, climb up and come back to the park. Some people landed back in Parramatta Park, others of us kept going for a bit longer.

All the feedback has been that it was a great success so I guess we will see if we get an invite to do it again next year.

Steve an Di Ireland did a fantastic job on the organisation side along with the team from Sydney Festival. All we had to do was turn up and fly which was great. The tracks from my flights are on the following map of Sydney showing the suburbs we flew over.

It looks like I am off to Melbourne for a promotional flight for a radio station on Thursday and then the 26th of January will see us out at Parramatta Park for Australia Day. Nothing like city flying to keep you sharp (or scared).

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sky Orchestra 2

Art is an interesting thing. To be in the company of people with a vision and the conviction to stand behind it is always enlightening and fun. Sky Orchestra has been one of those nice chances to participate and feel part of the process.

When I put up my first post about it I had read about it and had a concept of what we were expected to do. In reality I had no idea what it would really be like. So far we have had two flights including a very successful first day with the media all in tow as we cruised from Parramatta Park down to the south across the west of Sydney.

The music is surreal and really is just the sort of thing I could imagine messing with your dreams as intended. It is sure messing with our heads while flying! This morning I was over the top of a large apartment block when Patrick Stewart's voice started booming out bits of Shakespeare - I found myself giggling at the thought of lying in bed trying to figure out where the hell it was coming from.

Luke and Dan are really down to earth guys and are loving the opportunity this work has given them. Among the pilots there is a real drive to make it all work the best we can.

As we launched today we all hung together, bobbing up an down like the blobs of goo in a lava lamp for the full length of the field while a hundred or more spectators walked along underneath looking totaly gob smacked! They really looked like slack jawed zombies compelled to follow. Every now and then there would be a body just laying down on the grass, looking up or taking photos. Really great fun.

The flight has been canceled for Monday morning so it is off to work for me but the weather should improve leaving us with another three flights if all goes to plan.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Sky Orchestra

After a huge four days back at work, running around sorting out a blown up phone system and re-organisation of our IT infrastructure it is now time to do some flying if the weather will let us.

Over the next few days (Jan 6th through to the 12th) I will be one of a number of balloons blasting western Sydney with music from above in what is know as the Sky Orchestra.

This is one of the Sydney festival events and is an artwork by Luke Jerram and Dan Jones. The idea is that each balloon will be playing a section of the orchestral piece from loudspeakers hooked up to an MP3 player.

The web page of Luke Jerram also has more info about the whole thing.

The master briefing is later today so I will get more details then as to how it is all going to actually work on the day but it should be fun. The aim will be to stay close together and I suppose hope that the burners don't drown out the music!!

Anyhow, with some luck we will be done by 9am or so and I can get back to work and still be productive for the rest of the day.

I have just spent the last few hours updating all my digital maps for Oziexplorer so I can fly along with the computer knowing where I am, even if I don't. Always a nice thing to have, especially for city flights with airspace challenges.