Stratospheric Balloons launched from Chico Municipal Airport

In September 1961, Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory (AFCRL), an institution with headquarters in Bedford, Massachusetts which managed all the balloon projects for the Air Force, occupied a new, rented balloon-launching facility (the Stratospheric Balloon Base) at the Chico Municipal Airport. The first balloon launched there on October 24 was quite a success, crossing the country from west to east and being terminated 51 hours later in the Atlantic Ocean, 200 miles east of Boston.

The operations took place mainly in the winter months, when the prevailing winds forced the balloons to follow eastward flight paths. Nevertheless, there are also records of some flights that stretched over the Pacific Ocean off the coast, especially when them transported experiments involving the ejection of heavy loads (testing of new types of parachutes, measurements of flight dynamics, etc.).

A great deal of activity was carried out during the rest of the decade.

In October 1972, AFCRL launched from Chico a 47.8 million cubic foot, single-cell balloon. The balloon was manufactured by Winzen Research Inc. using extremely thin polyethilene film and was protected by a self-opening reefing sleeve. After a nominal ascent phase it managed to reach a height of 170.000 ft. establishing a new altitude record for an unmanned aerostat, that will endure unbeated 30 years.

The amount of flights started to decrease during the rest of the 70's and the first years of the next decade, until April 1st 1983, when the Air Force Geophysics Laboratory (denomination at those times of the former AFCRL) finished the agreement to rent the facilities and shutdown the launch station.

A brief list of some of the balloon launched is available at Stratocat website