South African to fly using helium balloons

After four years of putting together plans, a South African man intends to fly all the way to Cape Town from Robben Island using helium balloons to stay airborne.

Using a total of 200 balloons, each of which has a diameter of 1.5 metres, Matt Silver-Vallance plans to make the crossing some time before 27th April and is reportedly waiting for the ideal weather.

The planned balloon flight was approved by the SA Civil Aviation Authority, which was satisfied with the various safety precautions set in place.

Silver-Vallance plans to take off from Robben Island and rise to a maximum altitude of just 182 metres. The time it will take to cross to the mainland – which varies between nine and 14 kilometres from the island depending on the flight trajectory, and the points at which Silver-Vallance sets off and lands – will be dependant largely on the speed and direction of the wind during the flight.

As a precaution while travelling over the water, Silver-Vallance will be wearing a life jacket and wetsuit, while a motor-powered paraglider will follow him for added safety.

Fans and friends of Silver-Vallance took to Twitter to voice their support. Ari Levitan Tweeted:

“Good Luck Matt!! Hope you fly safe, any landing you can walk away from is a good one.”

The intention of the trip – aptly named the Robben Island Balloon Run – is to raise money towards the funds needed to build the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, a 200-bed paediatric hospital in Johannesburg.

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