CALGARY — An Alberta man who was nicknamed “balloonatic” for soaring over the Calgary Stampede grounds in a lawn chair held aloft with helium balloons says he’s planning a legal flight that would break a skydiving record.
Dan Boria says he plans to apply for permits from Transport Canada to launch a high-altitude flight and is midway through getting a hot-air balloonist licence.
“I’m going to break the world record for the highest skydive from space and we’re going to go up in a lawn chair,” Boria said in an interview.
“If we don’t get the permits here in Canada, we’re going to have do it in the States, though I’d prefer to do it in Alberta.”
Google executive Alan Eustace holds the record for the highest skydive from space, which he set when he jumped from a helium balloon 41 kilometres above the Earth.
Boria pleaded guilty to dangerous operation of an aircraft for tying industrial-sized balloons to a lawn chair as part of a plan to parachute over the Stampede chuckwagon races in July 2015.
It was a publicity stunt for his cleaning company, but high winds forced him to jump early before he reached the track.
A judge called Boria’s stunt “unconscionably stupid” and fined him $5,000. An additional $1,500 was tacked on as a victim impact fee, and Boria was also required to donate $20,000 to a veterans food bank.
More recently, Boria said, he flew in a balloon-powered lawn chair high above the UFO mecca of Roswell, N.M., while he recorded an infomercial for a cleaning product he sells.
Attempting to jump from a balloon on the edge of space, however, is more complicated.
French skydiver Michel Fournier tried numerous times to make the highest jump from a balloon over Saskatchewan between 2002 and 2010, but technical problems prevented the attempts from going ahead.
Temperatures at 40 kilometres above the Earth plunge to -65 C and a special pressure suit is needed to keep blood from boiling.
Boria said he’s been planning for two years and is having a suit manufactured.
He said Transport Canada has told him that his conviction from his 2015 flight shouldn’t preclude him from getting permits for a future altitude record attempt because “now I’m trying to do it legally.”
For the January flight over Roswell, he had the assistance of hot-air balloonists from Albuquerque, N.M., and one of them had a radio licence and kept air traffic in the area advised of his presence, he said.
Scott Massey, Roswell’s airport supervisor, said he had not heard of any such flight.
Boria said he and his assistants filled 120 balloons — each about six feet in diameter — with helium and when the chair was released, he shot up into the air at just over 150 metres a minute.
The wind blew him over Roswell and he said he believes he made it as high as 4.8 kilometres above sea level. A separate altimeter that would have told him the distance above ground was malfunctioning, he said, so he was afraid to jump as he’d planned.
“By the time I finished my infomercial, it didn’t look like I was high enough to jump,” Boria said.
“I ended up riding the chair down and getting dragged accross the desert floor a little bit.”
— By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton
The Canadian Press