Ballooning into the Sky

The Cluster Balloon Flight Page


 December 2022 - January 2023: The earliest years of this website date to a time when cameras used film and images larger than 200 x 300 px made sparks come out of your modem! I am in the process of updating selected flight pages with new or rescanned images from the archives and more contemporary design. Completed thus far: Over the Ocean (off the coast of San Diego, 1999), Celebration VII (Temecula, CA, 2001), A Grape Adventure (special shape cluster, 2001), and In the Sierra Nevada (Truckee, CA 2001). Also added: webpages documenting a few flights not previously documented here: States of Enlightenment, Montana (2008) and The Great Texas Balloon Race (2010).

 November 2022: Celebrating the 25th anniversary of my start in cluster ballooning -- new webpages describing my first four flights, not previously documented here. Also new: a Gallery with favorite images from over the years.

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 Interest in Cluster Balloons

My name is John Ninomiya. I have been a hot-air balloon pilot since 1980. In addition to conventional hot-air balloons, much of my flying has been in single-person hot-air balloons called Cloudhoppers.  

In 1997 I fulfilled a childhood dream by teaching myself to fly with clusters of large helium-filled balloons.  I have made over eighty helium cluster balloon flights since that time, including flights in 47 US states and an ascent to 20,000 feet.  All of them have been among my most magical flying experiences. 

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 personal 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.              


The main sections of the site are:

Into the Sky: An introduction to 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: My helium cluster balloon flights outside the United States, as part of a planned international flight series.
Gallery: A selection of photos from my cluster balloon flights.
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.


Ballooning into the Sky is updated for any new flights; in recent years, activity has been limited due to helium supply problems worldwide.  

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

Thank you for visiting Ballooning into the Sky!