David Blaine successfully pulls off death-defying balloon flight stunt 'Ascension' in Arizona desert
PAGE, Ariz. - David Blaine successfully performed his first live stunt since 2012 titled “Ascension,” which saw him soar high above the Arizona desert propelled by helium-filled balloons.
Blaine teamed up with YouTube to fund and live stream the incredibly dangerous stunt. He opened the live broadcast by introducing the audience to the team that the company helped him put together in order to make the event both safe and legal, as well as available for people to watch.
Blaine took off from an airport near Page, Ariz., on September 2. He carefully dropped weights that were keeping him near the ground as he slowly ascended to a maximum height of roughly 24,400 feet, also known as class A airspace, which is typically reserved for planes. His rig of more than 50 colorful balloons also included what his team called a "payload," a fiberglass orb that housed the various technologies to make things like oxygen and the cameras that surrounded Blaine work.
The performer did not wear a parachute, opting instead to put one on while in the air so that the visual effect of what he was trying to accomplish would be complete.
Oxygen was a hurdle for the performer, who at various points in his hourlong flight had to stop talking to catch his breath and use the assistance of an oxygen tank. However, that didn't stop him from having two mid-air conversations with his daughter, who was on the ground to attach the final balloon to his rig before takeoff.
Once he reached the intended height, he dropped from the balloon rig and successfully parachuted to the ground. However, he was unable to make his intended landing zone. As a result, he was guided back down to Earth by his team, who was in constant radio communication the whole time, as they found a safe spot for him to land in the desert.
Blaine spent the better part of two years preparing for this particular stunt, which required him to obtain a commercial balloon pilot’s license and get certified as a skydiver by making hundreds of jumps, according to his website. That’s all in addition to his team of skydivers, weather experts, and engineers who helped him calculate the safest way to pull off such a death-defying stunt.
The magician and endurance performer has done several impressive feats in his more than 20-year career, including being frozen in ice, buried alive, and withstanding electrocution. However, unlike those other stunts, Blaine told Variety prior to “Ascension” that this one felt different given that he would be separated from his safety team when he’s up in the air by himself.
“This one is just me all alone. That makes it different,” he said.
The 47-year-old previously explained that he wanted his latest stunt to be colorful and inspiring to his 9-year-old daughter, who previously saw him endure something a little scary with his “Electrified” stunt in 2012. He even added some pink balloons to the collection of roughly 50 helium-filled balloons that took him into the sky Tuesday morning.
The stunt was originally supposed to take place in New York City but was changed to Arizona.
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