Sunday, 10 April 2011

Balloning in the sky

Have you ever dreamed of being carried into the sky by a giant bouquet of colorful toy balloons? 

That's the idea behind cluster ballooning.  The pilot wears a harness, to which a cluster of large, helium-filled balloons are attached.  Control is achieved by releasing ballast to ascend, or by bursting balloons to descend.  
The most famous cluster balloon flight took place in 1982.  Larry Walters, with no prior ballooning experience, attached 42 helium weather balloons to a lawnchair, intending to go up a few hundred feet, but instead soaring to 16,000.  Surprisingly, Walters survived his flight.  However, both before and since Walters' adventure,   experienced balloonists have experimented with helium balloon clusters, some rising to even greater heights.

My name is krishnaiah. I have been flying hot-air balloons for almost twenty years; over the last seven years, much of my flying has been in single-person hot-air balloons called Cloudhoppers.  Eight years ago, I decided to fulfill a childhood dream by learning to fly with a cluster of large helium balloons.   I have made forty helium cluster balloon flights since that time.  All of them have been among my most magical flying experiences.  

The State of the Art

With half a dozen pilots worldwide, cluster ballooning remains something between an extreme sport and a personal eccentricity, for the moment. At present, I'm the only regularly active cluster balloonist in North America, and to my knowledge, have completed more cluster flights than anyone in the world. There are two cluster balloon pilots in the UK, and another three or four people who have made single flights.


Kids, don't try this at home!

Cluster balloons, like all balloons, are aircraft that require skill and training to operate safely.  Before I began flying cluster balloons, I was an FAA-licensed hot-air balloon pilot and had over four-hundred hours of pilot time in conventional hot-air balloons and Cloudhoppers.  These skills are not rocket science, but they are NOT something you're going to figure out on your first flight while you're drifting toward the high tension lines and imminent crispy-critterhood!  Fly safely!


Site Content

The following pages document my experiences flying helium balloon clusters. The principal content is pages devoted to flights I've done in various places, with photos and narrative; these can be accessed through the  pages. These pages contain a lot of images and may take a while to load if you're dialing up.  However, the photographs are very cool and well worth the wait.

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