Ballooning into the Sky

The Cluster Balloon Flight Page

newNew on Clusterballoon.orgnew

newMedora Balloon Rally: States of Enlightenment #47, in Medora, North Dakota (flight 9/10/2011; posted 10/20/2011)

newMaryland Flight: States of Enlightenment #46, in Union Bridge, Maryland (flight 5/21/2011; posted 9/18/2011)

Canaan Connecticut Flight: States of Enlightenment #45, in Connecticut (flight 10/10/2010; posted 11/11/2010)

New Haven Balloon Race: States of Enlightenment #44, in Missouri (flight 9/25/2010; posted 10/20/2010)

Cumberlandfest: States of Enlightenment #43, in Rhode Island (flight 8/7/2010; posted 9/26/2010)

 

 

 

new2011 Tour Datesnew

May 21: Flying H Farm Balloon Fly-in, Union Bridge, MD

August 13 - 21 (17): Interrnational de Montgolfieres de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

September 10 - 11: Medora Hot-air Balloon Rally, Badlands Appreciation Weekend, Medora,ND

 



 

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.

 

 

 

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My Interest in Cluster Balloons

My name is John Ninomiya. 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.  

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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.


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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!

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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 Logbook and States of Enlightenment 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.

 

The main sections of the site are:

Introduction to Cluster Ballooning : The basics of flight with helium-filled balloons, illustrated with photographs from various flights. Includes a QuickTime slide show and video.

Learning to Fly with Helium Balloons : How I set out to teach myself how to fly with helium-filled balloons, with pictures from my first four flights.

Logbook: A list of my helium balloon adventures, with links to the webpage(s) devoted to each flight. I've noted some of my favorites, from various perspectives. There's also a complete chronological list of flights.

States of Enlightenment: An ongoing multi-year performance project involving helium cluster balloon flights in all fifty states of the U.S. There are links to the webpage(s) devoted to each flight in this series.
Continental Drift: A series of helium cluster balloon flights in countries around the world.

Links and References: More about cluster ballooning, on the web, on TV and in print.

Contact Us: Your feedback on the site is welcome. Also, please e-mail for information on sponsoring a helium cluster balloon flight at your balloon festival or other special event.
Other than reference pages, the main content of the site is the collection of webpages devoted to each flight. These are accessible via the "Logbook" and "States of Enlightenment" pages; recently completed flights are also linked to this homepage (see above).

 

Ballooning into the Sky is continually updated for new flights, usually four to six times a year. New features are noted on the home page. There are currently two QuickTime slide shows on the site; several 2005 flights also feature video clips.  

For another, slightly more conventional take on single-person ballooning (utilizing a single balloon, and hot-air), please visit cloudhopper.org.

Thank you for visiting Ballooning into the Sky!

 

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