The stunt was hyped all the way since April when global fast-food franchise KFC tapped the latest actor to portray their celebrated founder Colonel Sanders for their latest marketing campaign. The said campaign involved sending up one of the chain’s Zinger chicken sandwiches up in the sky if not space altogether.

KFC has partnered with high-altitude balloon outfit World View Enterprises in order to provide a vehicle for the attempt. The brand will get their publicity and World View would be able to test their Stratollite high-alt balloon prototype for days-spanning extended flights in the stratosphere.

The launch went off without a hitch on June 29, but what was slated to be a 4-day stay was drastically reduced to 17 hours.

Flight cut short

Despite good weather conditions at World View Enterprises’ Arizona launch site last week, when a KFC Zinger encased in a stylized space capsule was sent up in their Stratollight balloon to the stratosphere, a reported leak in the balloon itself forced the premature end of the flight. This was laid out in the official statement on the event by World View CEO Jane Poynter on Saturday, July 1, the day after the Zinger-loaded Stratollight’s ignominious return.

World View’s unmanned Stratollight high-altitude balloon was designed for stratospheric flights of up to 100,000 feet in the air.

Previous flights of the prototype have been for scientific observations on behalf of NASA, carrying cargoes of scientific instruments.

Last week’s publicity stunt for KFC would have been the first time the Stratollight would have stayed airborne for more than twelve hours, building up to the design specifications of being able to stay up for months on end.

The four days that the balloon would have kept the Zinger chicken sandwich aloft would have been ample time for testing the Stratollight’s various systems – flight and altitude, communications, solar power.

Still satisfactory

None of World View Enterprises’ scheduled tests were carried out for the simple reason that the balloon component of the Stratollight sprang a leak, necessitating a quick descent as allowable.

However, the mission itself was not entirely disappointing.

Although the 17 hours was short the planned 4-day flight, it still beat the prototype’s previous record of half a day in the stratosphere. "That said, we are extremely pleased with the results of the mission," Poynter remarked.

She also added a light-hearted remark on the condition of their special cargo saying, “Our special payload passenger, KFC's Zinger Spicy Chicken Sandwich, performed flawlessly and experienced incredible views from the edge of space.” While it may not have gotten to zero gravity, that sounds good enough for the Colonel.