During the spring of 1924, U.S. Weather Bureau meteorologist LeRoy Meisinger conducted a series of experiments with a free balloon to determine the trajectories of air around extratropical cyclones. The 10th flight in the series ended with a crash of the balloon overcentral Illinois. Both Meisinger and the pilot, Army Air Services Lt. James Neely, were killed.

An effort has been made to reconstruct this accident using information from a review article by early twentieth-century meteorologist Vincent Jakl and newspaper accounts of the accident. The principal results of the study follow.

  1. Meisinger's balloon was caught in the downdraft of a newly developed thunderstorm over the Bement, Illinois, area on the evening of 2 June;

  2. a hard landing took place in a cornfield just north of Bement, and loss of ballast at the hard-landing site was sufficient to cause the balloon to rise again; and

  3. after rebounding from the ground, the balloon with the two aeronauts aboard was struck by lightning. A fire resulted that burned through the netting and led to a crash four miles northeast of the hard-landing site.

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Footnotes

*Editor's note: The first part of this two-part series appeared in the January 1995 issue of the Bulletin.

+National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma.

++New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, New Mexico.