Have you ever wondered how many helium-filled balloons it would take to lift you up and let you fly among the clouds? Extreme sports enthusiast Erik Roner recently found out. Roner attached 90 helium-filled balloons to a sun lounger and rose to 8,000 ft (2,438 m).
Even without having seen the movie Up, plenty of people will have looked at helium balloons and thought about using them to fly. Roner himself tells Gizmag that his motivation for carrying out the stunt was as simple as curiosity. "It's something I’ve wanted to do for a long time," he says. "Who hasn’t thought of getting lifted off the ground by a bunch of helium balloons?" It was all the more reminiscent of the movie, however, due to the colorful balloons used.
A great deal of preparation was required for the project. Roner spoke to people who had done similar balloon flights before and used their advice and experience to inform his planning. Among the calculations that were done in advance of his flight, Roner and his team worked out how much helium would be required to to lift him off the ground, how high he would rise and how far would he might travel. A backup plan was also worked out in case anything went wrong.
Other things that were considered included what sort of sun lounger or lawn chair would be best to use for the stunt, how it could be released from the balloons when it was time to return to terra firma and how to skydive safely when holding a shotgun. "We went over every detail of the process," Roner explains. "Weather was a huge factor. We even moved the launch day up a few days last minute because our initial day was predicting bad weather."
Roner designed the sun lounger and release system with the help of his parachute rigger. A lightweight lounger was chosen and a stable platform was designed from which the lines and balloons could be released when necessary. The contraption was put together using common parachute materials, including a 3-ring release system, risers, cutaway cable, carbineers, rope and string.
On the day of the stunt, around 20 volunteers helped Roner and his team to inflate the balloons with 50 tanks-worth of helium before attaching them to the lounger. The lounger was released from the cables holding it to the ground and Roner was lifted up by the balloons along with a shotgun for bursting them and a parachute to let him float back down.
The video below shows the preparation, the ascent and the eventual freefall.
Source: Erik Roner