I was reading the Spring
2003 issue of RIT-The University Magazine and decided
it was a keeper. When I got to the last page From the Archives
– Operation Hi-Ball, my thought was yes!
I immediately started digging and found the official
history of the project.
Thanks to G. Wayne
Hass 64, Hi-Ball secretary-treasurer, we have a written
record of the beginnings and the launching. It was officially
organized on Feb. 9, 1962, and flew on May 18, 1962. The records
dont mention it, but the capsule/balloon, Z-2, was named,
a bit tongue-in-cheek, after Professor Richard Zakia.
As I recall we launched
a little late and we got into trouble almost immediately. The
launch pad was on South Washington Street and Broad
Street. The wind blew the balloon southward and the tether line
got caught on the iron gingerbread on the ridge of the church
on Spring Street and South Plymouth Avenue. FAA rules required
a means of emptying the balloon if it got away.
To this end, Dick Norman designed some charges attached to a barometer
so they would detonate at some prescribed altitude and let the
helium escape. The charges did go off when the fire department
attempted to unhook the line from the top of the church, but it
didnt empty. Back to the drawing boards.
That was not the only
bug in the system. After the fire department retrieved the capsule
we unloaded the camera in a darkroom and discovered the film had
not advanced. No pictures! After that I never had problems with
film advancing in any camera I used.
As I recall it was
a real media event. All the local TV stations had their crews
on site, and of course the Rochester Fire Department rescue of
the Z-2 from the church made the 6 p.m. news. There is a 16mm
silent motion picture of Hi-Ball that was screened at The Little
theater for our 25th Reunion in 1989.
The following is a
list of the names that appear on the documentation of Hi-Ball
(full names were not listed for everyone): Fred Able, Donald Adams,
John Balser, Jack Blair, ? Brodsky, George Cochran, William Darrow,
Peter Engeldrum, Raymond Eynard, Dean File, Howard Finkelstein,
Michael Geissinger, G. Wayne Hass, ? Hewes, Jerry Hughes, Terry
James, Al Jorgensen, William Kinney, Edward Kob, James Langone,
Harry Parsonage, George Pittman, Hugh Pitts, John Polger, Bryan
Sammartino, Charles Scavron, Kenneth Shiffbauer, Ronald Sokolowsky,
Norman Stern, William Townes, Arthur Walsh, Don Wells, Scott Wilson,
William Wing, and Russell Zimmerman.
As I reflect on Operation
Hi-Ball, it occurs to me that it would be extremely difficult
to pull it off today. Its just hard to imagine that it
was 41 years ago!
Peter G. Engeldrum