Up In The Clouds With Curious John

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Any kid who's read Curious George has had to be curious themselves: What would it be like to be carried away by balloons?

Well, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman has a story about a guy we'll call "Curious John."

Curious John begins his adventures early in the morning with about 20 volunteers, 80 balloons and $1,400 worth of helium.

"It's quite a production," John said.

His real name is John Ninomiya and he's the only person in the country that does this.

"I had to find various balloons to do the testing," Ninomiya said. He uses balloons made for "flying out in front of a car dealership," he says, or other outdoor use.

But they're not for aviation?

"No, they're not," he admitted with a laugh.

Fortunately, John knows a lot about risk assessment. He actually works as an actuary.

Clearly, not the most exciting part of his story. Ninomiya's a kind of Clark Kent in that way — mild-mannered by day-job, and like a bird in his off-time.

An experienced hot-air balloon pilot, he first decided to fill a bunch of balloons and fulfill his childhood fantasy about 10 years ago. Since, he's done close to 50 flights. Most have been at fairs and festivals like this one in Georgia, and so far all have been perfect launches.

"He's almost to the clouds," one kid watching says.

But he had to figure out one other thing. How to get down.

For that not-so-unimportant detail, Ninomiya brings a knife.

He cuts away the balloons one at a time until, eventually, hopefully, he finds a nice flat farmer's field with a nice friendly farmer. He got lucky this time — landings aren't always this happy, which is why…

"I don't think this is a good thing for kids to try at home," he said.

Sorry to burst your bubbles, kids.
  • Christine Lagorio

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