Cluster Ballooning

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Cluster ballooning is a form of ballooning where a harness attaches a balloonist to a cluster of helium-inflated rubber balloons. Unlike traditional hot-air balloons, where a single large balloon is equipped with vents enabling altitude control, cluster balloons are multiple, small, readily available and individually sealed balloons. To control flight, arrest a climb or initiate a descent, the pilot incrementally jettisons or deflates balloons.

In 1982, Californian truck driver Larry Walters, without any prior ballooning experience, attached 42 helium-filled weather balloons to a lawn chair and lifted off. He quickly rose to nearly 3 miles. He controlled his altitude by using a pellet gun to selectively pop some of the balloons. In his defense to charges filed against him by the FAA, he stated that he intended to rise just a few hundred feet, but underestimated helium’s lifting power causing his tethering strap to break prematurely.

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