A British adventurer strapped himself to a camping chair and, with the sole aid of helium-filled balloons, flew 25 km and reached a height of 8,000 feet.
38-year-old Tom Morgan spent two entire days inflating the 100 balloons used in the risky flight. The Bristol native, who runs an adventure company, first tried to take off from Botswana. However, due to unfavourable conditions, moved his challenge to South Africa.
He told the BBC, “The problem was finding a good weather window and it was difficult to protect the balloons as they kept bursting.”
Morgan and his team decided to move their base just north of Johannesburg, and took the decision to take off with just enough helium left for one more attempt.
As the chair began to rise, he described feeling “somewhere between terrified and elated,” but also felt the experience was “unbelievably cool.”
When his makeshift aircraft approached the inversion layer of the atmosphere, the temperature started to pick up, which made the flight accelerate quickly. That’s when Morgan started gradually cutting his balloons until he could land safely.
Morgan did the stunt to promote a competitive helium balloon race he wants to establish in the future.
“I came here to see if we could organise the world’s most ridiculous air race and after that flight, I’m more convinced than ever that we can,” he said.
This crazy adventure had the opposite ending of a 2008 attempt by Brazilian Catholic priest Adelir de Carli, who planned a balloon flight in an effort to raise funds for a local charity organisation.
Father Adelir used around a thousand party balloons and took his flight in adverse weather conditions, equipped with a GPS he didn’t really know how to use.
The initiative sadly ended in tragedy when the priest was found dead in the middle of the Atlantic some four months after disappearing. An offshore oil rig support vessel found the lower half of his body floating in the sea, about 100 km from Macaé. Father de Carli was identified after a DNA test.