Stanislav Paniuta walked on a wobbly rope 2,165 feet above the ground, between two floating hot-air balloons, above Uman, in Ukraine’s Cherkasy Oblast region. It was his first time “slacklining” between balloons as onlookers watched with bated breath while he kept calm and concentrated on scaling the 33-foot rope. The amazing and compelling feat set a record in the Montgolfier Blossoming Country Festival of Aeronautics on 4th June 2017.
Neither a parachutist nor a skydiver, Paniuta had only a safety rope on. “It is completely safe,” Paniuta insists. “This sport is called slackline and it is my hobby,” he said in an interview with The Balloon Journal. “All the equipment was certified and had a wide margin of safety, and it was also duplicated,” he said.
So, what was the most difficult part? “Getting up [standing on the rope], then fear goes away, and you just have to keep calm and concentrate on walking,” says Paniuta.
The video shows Paniuta struggling to get a foothold on the rope and then finding his balance at every step as the rope wobbles between balloons, which were being controlled by professional pilots Sergiy Skalko and Yuriy Beydik from Montgolfier Aeronautic Company.
Skalko, who has years of ballooning experience, admitted that it was hard to maintain stability and altitude of the balloons. “The challenge was also to keep the rope straight because the baskets were too close,” Skalko told The Balloon Journal. According to him, the latter part of the walk must have been even more challenging as the rope inclined upward and Paniuta had to walk up the rope toward the balloon. “But we had spent a lot of time calculating the risks and the challenges and worked on the technical parameters, prior to taking part,” says Skalko. “Our main goal was safety for all. It was terrifying for those who watched, but it was not terrifying for those involved.”
As for any fear, concern, or what goes through his mind, Paniuta said, “I look down before I start, but while walking, I don’t look down. If the line is challenging, as it is between balloons, thoughts are constantly confused, and one should try to concentrate on the walk. Fear of height is almost absent” he says. “Unfortunately, I am not a skydiver, but seven years ago, I had jumped from an airplane, before taking up highlining.”
Lucid Dreams Project, a group of extreme athletes, who also shoot high quality videos of extreme sports came up with “turning this crazy idea into a reality,” for the ballooning festival and shared the idea on Facebook. They found Paniuta, who dreamed of walking a highline between balloons. Their other athletes also performed skydive jumps, landing in the main city square, including Oleksii Samodid and Mykhailo Kostiuchenko who jumped from the balloons.
“We strongly believe that all our dreams can come true. We are helping others to find resources that are hiding inside each of us, to leave stress behind and pursue their dreams,” said a Lucid Dreams official.
The altitude 2,165 feet (equal to the height of a 216-story building), is the highest rope walk, but Paniuta wanted to rise higher and hopes to do the stunt again this year. “My family is already used to it. Besides, it’s completely safe,” he says.
Online commentators did not think so. Some applauded his courage while others sympathized with his near and dear ones.