David Blaine, in his first live stunt in nearly eight years, soared above a desert in Arizona to an altitude of 24,900 feet — about 4.7 miles — piloting more than four dozen helium balloons. It’s believed to be the highest that anyone has flown using only a cluster-balloon rig.
The stunt, launched Wednesday from an airport in Page, Ariz., was livestreamed on YouTube, which funded and produced the project. After lifting off just before 8 a.m. PT, Blaine stayed in the air for about an hour before safely parachuting back to Earth. “Wow! That was awesome!” he exclaimed when he landed.
“This was all for you,” Blaine told his 9-year-old daughter via radio after his touchdown.
The 47-year-old magician and endurance performer donned an oxygen mask for the last several minutes. Blaine originally wanted to stage “Ascension” in his hometown of New York City on Aug. 31 but moved it to Arizona because of weather conditions and safety concerns.
According to YouTube, Blaine’s Sept. 2 stunt scored as the most-viewed YouTube Originals live event to date, with over 770,000 peak concurrent viewers. That topped past events including “Dear Class of 2020” (665,000 peak concurrent viewers); “The Creator Games Presented by MrBeast” (662,000), “Will Smith: The Jump” (more than 300,000) and “Taylor Swift: Lover’s Lounge (Live)” (more than 185,000).
Blaine’s team on the ground was monitoring his vital signs during the balloon flight, where during his peak ascent the temperatures dropped below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The performer trained for about a year and a half for the balloon stunt, requiring him to get a pilot’s license and a commercial balloon pilot’s license and skydiver certification.
Blaine claimed that he has dreamed of flying ever since he saw Albert Lamorisse’s classic short film “The Red Balloon” when he was a kid, in which a young boy is lifted high above Paris by a bunch of magical balloons. According to Blaine, he only recently saw Pixar’s “Up,” in which an entire house is airborne by balloons.
A three-hour replay of the event is available on Blaine’s YouTube channel, at this link.
David Blaine just before he released himself from the balloon harness and parachuted down near Page, Ariz. Credit: YouTube