UPDATED: David Blaine nixed his plan to float over the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York City strapped to a bunch of helium balloons, blaming logistical challenges.
Instead, the magician and performer will attempt to perform the stunt — which is being bankrolled by YouTube as an original livestreaming special — more than 2,000 miles away in Arizona.
“Because of the complexity of this project, I’m not going forward with my plans to do New York City at this time,” Blaine said in a video announcing the change Sunday. The “groundbreaking R&D flight,” in which he’ll try to fly as high in the air as possible suspended only by balloons, will happen this week in Arizona, he said, “which is the most beautiful backdrop that I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Contingent on the weather in Arizona, Blaine said, his stunt will lift off either Sept. 1 or 2 at 6 a.m. PT. “Everything is wind-dependent,” he said, encouraging fans to set a reminder on the YouTube livestream page.
On Monday, a YouTube rep confirmed that Blaine’s stunt is now scheduled for Wednesday (Sept. 2) starting at 6 a.m. PT, if the weather cooperates. His goal is to ascend some 18,000 feet (around 3.4 miles) into the air above the desert in Arizona, borne aloft by 52 weather balloons.
Blaine had planned to take to the air on Monday, Aug. 31, to fly over the New York skyline. But together with his team, he decided to relocate the event because of unfavorable projected weather conditions and wind patterns in the area. Monday’s current forecast for New York City is mostly sunny with winds east-southeast of 5 mph and gusts up to 7 mph, according to AccuWeather.
“Ascension” is Blaine’s first live-broadcast stunt since 2012, when he spent 72 hours standing on a pillar in New York City while he was subjected to 1 million volts of electricity. (That also was livestreamed on YouTube.) Among other endurance events, he’s been buried in a plastic box under a three-ton water-filled tank, spent seven days submerged in an 8-foot-diameter water-filled sphere in front of New York City’s Lincoln Center, and spent nearly 64 hours encased in a massive block of ice in Times Square.
Blaine has been training over the last two years for the “Ascension” stunt, which required him to become a licensed pilot. The FAA has classified the cluster of large balloons he will be flying as an “experimental aircraft.” YouTube assembled a team of experts to advise Blaine for the flight, including skydiving pro Luke Aikins.
YouTube announced plans for a live special with Blaine (without revealing the detail of the helium-balloon flight) at TCA in January 2020. As part of promoting the stunt, Blaine met up with TikTok stars and sisters Charli and Dixie D’Amelio to give them controlled test flights with bunches of helium balloons.
The Google-owned video platform’s originals strategy is centered around live events like Blaine’s stunt, as well as music, personality-driven programming and educational content. That’s after YouTube methodically scrapped its scripted slate over the last two years.