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Helium-inflated dream of flight

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By Kieran Legg

Cape Town - A couple hundred balloons and a few ropes will be the only things between Matt Silver-Vallance and a lengthy plummet into shark-infested waters.

The Capetonian has decided to scrap the ferry and travel from Robben Island using nothing more than a cluster of helium-filled rubber balloons.

Silver-Vallance, pictured, said it had always been a dream of his to harness the power of the party accessory for flight.

Come April, Silver-Vallance will be strapped into a harness attached via ropes to around 200 balloons.

Control over the direction of the haphazard construction is achieved by strategically bursting or deflating individual balloons.

“It’s going to be pretty scary and those Cape Town winds have me worried,” he told the Cape Argus yesterday.

That’s why he is going to spend the next two months before launch day preparing for the one-man daredevil stunt.

The 36 year old, who lives in Rugby in the UK, won’t be breaking new ground. Twelve similarly minded aviators have travelled using air and rubber.

In 1982, Larry Walters filled up 42 weather balloons and tied them to his lawn chair.

The Californian man underestimated how quickly he would rise and found himself 5km above terra firma. He was forced to shoot the balloons with a pellet gun to bring himself crashing back down to Earth.

In 2001, Mike Howard and Steve Davis broke the Guinness World Record for their “cluster” balloon flight, achieving a height of almost 5.6km.

In 2010, Jonathan Trappe crossed the English Channel landing safely in a farmer’s cabbage patch, also using a cluster of balloons filled with helium.

Last November, Trappe, successfully flew a house over 20 000 feet (about 7km) in the air, lifted by helium-filled balloons in Leon, Mexico, as inspired by the Pixar film Up.

But Silver-Vallance isn’t doing it for the records, adrenaline rush or the view. He said it is all to raise money for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital which he said was the perfect charity because of the former president’s links with Robben Island.

He hoped to raise R10 million for the Joburg medical centre.

kieran.legg@inl.co.za

Cape Argus

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