An Iowa State University graduate who’s now retired from a career as a nuclear engineer has gone on to greater heights, setting a new world record this weekend for staying aloft in a hot-air balloon. Rich Jaworski founded a ballooning club in the Omaha area and a year ago made a practice flight, setting a record for staying aloft in a small balloon.
Flight coordinator Joanne Ragle says it’s less than half the size of the colorful balloons you see at rallies. The balloon’s white on the bottom, black on top, to gather solar heat and use even less fuel. Instead of the usual gondola, the pilot sits in a "kind of a hammock," a suspended sling with the propane tanks hanging below him. From that vantage point, he operated the balloon to remain aloft for 23 hours, 12 minutes…a second consecutive world record, for the A-X-Four class balloon he was flying.
This was an endurance record, not a distance one, and Ragle says the bitter cold weather was a big help. It takes less to heat up the balloon’s envelope, Ragle explains. "The colder it is, the less fuel consumption you have, the longer you’ll be able to stay aflight. And actually in 23 hours, he only went a little over 100 miles." His movements were tracked by GPS and posted four times an hour to a website for fans to follow.
Jaworski got his Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD degrees at ISU, and worked for 35 years at the nuclear generating plant operated Omaha Public Power District. Jaworski’s credited with becoming Nebraska’s first hot-air balloon pilot. Ragle says about 1970 he heard about Iowa’s balloon event in Indianola, which was the largest in the nation for years, and went to see. "He just got really into it," she says, and one year Jaworski took first place at the Indianola Balloon Classic.
One year he flew a balloon 250 miles, winning the Indianola event’s distance award. This year he teamed with the American Heart Association to use his world record attempt to publicize heart disease research and prevention. Jaworski’s father just had his pacemaker replaced last year, and the balloonist is doing this to draw attention to the work and research the Heart Association does. He lifted off Sunday morning and returned to the ground near Grand Forks, North Dakota on Monday after setting the record for time aloft in his model of hot-air balloon. The website created for his record flight is dubbed " Adventure of the Heart ."