If a child were to create a flying device, their fantasy of air travel would probably look something like cluster ballooning – enormous, brightly colored balloons attached to a lawn chair or other form of seating, slowly moving across the sky.

Although there is nothing childish about this sport. In fact, cluster ballooners carefully calculate the lift/weight ratio to work out how many helium balloons it will take to lift their body weight for flight. They also need to understand winds and weather to ensure their homemade aircraft stay safely afloat.

Cluster ballooning is fascinating to watch and ever since Larry Walters captured the world’s attention in 1982 with his solo flight, people have become addicted to watching the sport. We caught up with the foremost cluster ballooner on the planet – John Ninomiya – to find out what it feels like to take to the skies with nothing but a handful of balloons to keep you afloat.

What is cluster ballooning?
Cluster ballooning is an unusual form of ballooning that involves using clusters of gas-filled balloons, rather than a single large balloon, for lift. Usually, these are latex rubber balloons. Most cluster balloonists do not use a basket to ride in, but instead attach the balloons to some type of seat or harness.

Where did this sport/hobby originate?
Ballooning with clusters of balloons has been done as early as the 1930s.

Is cluster ballooning popular as a pastime?
Cluster ballooning is still a fringe sport. There are fewer than a dozen people worldwide who have flown cluster balloons.