July 11, 2007
No doubt you have heard about Kent Crouch, the balloon guy who flew 9 hours, to an altitude of 13,000 feet, and traveled 193 miles in a lawn chair kept aloft with helium balloons. There is actually a website devoted to the hobby, which is called Cluster Ballooning.
Now, some may know that I have been in my share of balloons. I've traveled maybe 60 miles on a single flight, been up to 10,000 feet or thereabouts, watched passenger jets taking off nad landing below me. But it's always been with an FAA inspected aircraft, an FAA licensed pilot, etc.
I dunno - lots of things that could go wrong - the balloons go porous at a certain temperature, or expand too much and start to pop, or a support rope is not tied right. The FAA mandates oxygen above 10,000 feet, so there is a risk of passing out. Just seems like a practice that might earn one a Darwin Award before one wins any aviation titles.
Nevertheless, one has to admire the spirit, the desire, the craziness, the gumption. For every kid who has seen The Red Balloon, or jumped off the garage with a home-made parachute - well, cheers!