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West Chicago Civil Air Patrol squadron searches for missing paper aircraft

Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 3:58 p.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
Fox Valley Composite Squadron, a unit of the Civil Air Patrol based in West Chicago, will perform air and ground searches Saturday for a 28-inch fluorescent pink paper aircraft (pictured) and internal electronics that went missing in Indiana.

WEST CHICAGO – Fox Valley Composite Squadron, a unit of the Civil Air Patrol based in West Chicago, is looking for a paper aircraft lost in Indiana during an attempt to beat a Guinness World Record.

On Saturday, the squadron will perform air and ground searches in Marshall County, Ind., for the 28-inch fluorescent pink paper aircraft and its internal electronics.

The group is requesting the public’s assistance in the search. A reward willbe issued to anyone who finds and returns the aircraft and electronics.

On Dec. 28, 2013, Fox Valley Composite Squadron launched the paper airplane aboard a high-altitude helium balloon from Kankakee Airport in hopes of breaking the Guinness World Record for highest paper airplane flight from a high-altitude balloon. The project was started as a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) project for the unit’s cadet members.

The team was able to track the aircraft’s progress using a real-time GPStracking system, but just northwest of Plymouth, Ind., both the balloon and aircraft experienced a failure that sent them descending back to Earth from about 85,153 feet – just 4,438 feet shy of the existing 89,591 foot record, according to a squadron news release.

The aircraft descended through 54,981 feet, where it then stopped reporting location and altitude, information critical to recovering the aircraft. The aircraft’s telemetry continued to broadcast data for another eight minutes before it was lost as well, the release stated. Although a Civil Air Patrol aircraft was immediately dispatched to the area, it failed to receive the aircraft’s locator transmitter.

By analyzing the flight path, telemetry information and historical weather, the squadron was able to figure out the area where the aircraft was likely to have landed.

However, the search will be challenging because the missing object is relatively small with a 28-inch wingspan made of cardboard and poster board and a Styrofoam section that includes the GPS tracking system, HD video camera, flight computer and batteries, according to the release.

Because the aircraft may have been covered by snow, search efforts were delayed until spring.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the aircraft is asked to call the squadron at 877-308-5665.

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