On November 20, 2004 one Russian guy, Vitaly Kulikov, set a new world record for highest ever flight. He reached a height of 5470 m on a bunch of 800 toy balloons filled with helium. Thus, Vitaly broke the record of three years ago belonging to Ian Ashpole and included in the Guinness Book of Records. The Englishman managed to reach a height of only 3350 m. Besides, he couldn't land his "aircraft" and had to use a parachute.
Kulikov's flight was a greater success, even though it took place in really extreme conditions - a terrible blizzard struck on that day. The wind speed near the ground was more than 160 km/h. Even planes don't fly in such weather. They are simply blown away from the strip...
That's how a takeoff ground looked in November.
The MAZ with helium.
From Vitaly's words: "One day, I wanted to do something cool and I thought: why not to fly on balloons? The physics of the process was clear and simple to me as I was a physicist. All that I needed to know for the calculations was the density of air and hydrogen. The difference between them gives the value of the lift."
"I started to choose balloons. They had to satisfy two conditions: to be strong and as cheap as possible. The purchase of all equipment required about $6.500 and I decided not to bother sponsors and finance the project independently. Thank God, my salary allowed me to do this."
"I started to develop the project. I learned on the Internet that some Ian Ashpole had already flown on toy balloons and even set a world record. At first I thought "What a bummer! I won't be the first man who set a record for flying on balloons" but then I realized that this wasn't actually that bad as I could export and optimize some of his ideas."
'But the main thing that I found out was that people flew exactly as I imagined. The fear that something wouldn't work has gone."
"The first flight took place on September 25, 2004. I reached a height of 400 meters holding on 360 balloons filled with hydrogen, was in the air for 25 minutes and landed safely 8.5 km far from the launch pad. The flight gave me an enormous experimental material. After it I was absolutely sure that I would break Ashpole's record."
"By November everything was ready for the second flight. I decided to replace hydrogen with helium. Fortunately, I found a sponsor who provided me with the required amount of it. Initially, there were 1300 balloons and 60 gas cylinders. A team of 15 people assembled my "aircraft" for more than 6 hours. About 100 balloons were blown away."