Is It Just Hot Air, or Is Colin Prescot's Trial Balloon a Commuter's Salvation?
Prescot, who leases larger balloons to his British clients (for promotional use a la the Goodyear blimp), concedes that the commuter model is not for everyone. It will sell for $6,000, and with tank and harness weighs almost 100 pounds (about one-sixth the size of a standard hot-air balloon). Its aluminum fuel tank holds enough pressurized propane for a 60-minute flight, at heights up to 5,000 feet and speeds up to 15 mph. For safety, there's an emergency ejection system and parachute.
But Prescot, 29, the Eton-educated son of a banker, insists the Cloudhopper is more than just an executive shuttle. He plans to market it as "the ultimate dare in a daring sport." Elaborates his partner, Robin Batchelor: "Around you is a couple of thousand feet of nothing, and you're sitting in a floating armchair. You can't help being in awe, but," he admits, "you feel awfully vulnerable."