The Characters in Flight tethered helium balloon ride at Downtown Disney was removed for a thorough inspection last Friday night after an incident involving a similar balloon in Hong Kong.
The balloon is operated by a company called Aerophile, under an agreement with Disney. Aerophile also operates a similar balloon at Disneyland Paris and it also has been shut down for inspection.
The balloon in Hong Kong, operated at Ocean Park, developed a rupture on the gas-filled balloon and came down fast from a height of about 60 feet. Although some riders in the balloon and some guests on the ground we hurt, none had serious injuries. Click Here for the story in The Standard, an English periodical in Hong Kong.
As a precaution, the balloon at Downtown Disney West Side has been removed and is being inspected. They have no time-frame for when it may return. Characters in Flight employees are stationed at the attraction to inform guests of the temporary closure. Mention of the balloon has been removed from the Walt Disney World website.
The balloon has a volume of 210,000 cubic feet, a 72-foot diameter, a circumference of 240 feet and a height of 105 feet. It has an eight-point mooring system and a landing platform on the lake, designed especially for Downtown Disney. It officially opened on April 21, 2009.
UPDATE: July 3, 2012 – Jérôme Giacomoni, the president of Aerophile sent us this statement:
“After an incident with an Aerophile balloon at Ocean Park in Hong Kong, we have decided to suspend our operations of this type of balloons worldwide so we can conduct inspections on each of them.
“Nevertheless, the balloon of Orlando was scheduled to be replaced in November. Instead of re-inflating it after the inspection (which is a significant cost), we have decided to take it down for now and expedite the replacement work. We don’t know when it will reopen yet but we hope soon.”
Below is a look at the attraction and the views it offers.