Watch for free: Alpha 5 balloon to be inflated at Air Force museum one last time

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force will make the Alpha 5 balloon a permanent part of its collection, and the public is invited to see the balloon inflated for the last time.

The final inflation of the 115-foot-tall balloon will happen from 7 to 8 a.m. Saturday, June 22 at the museum, inside Wright-Patterson Air Force Base gate 28B off Springfield Street in Riverside.

This event is free and open to the public. It is the same morning as the first day of the Dayton Air Show, but happens well before flying is scheduled to start there around 11:15 a.m.

Museum visitors will have a chance to see the fully inflated balloon and meet the team who set a skydiving world record when they jumped from it.

In September 2023, Miami Twp. real estate investor Larry Connor joined a team of four U.S. Air Force pararescue specialists in setting a Guinness World Record for the highest HALO (high altitude, low opening) formation skydive at 38,139 feet, the museum noted. Connor led the team as captain.

Fully inflated, the balloon stands as tall as a 15-story building — it’s the largest balloon ever manufactured in the United States — and, as someone with some math skills and imagination figured out, it could hold 573,000 basketballs inside it, Dayton Daily News writer Tom Archdeacon noted last year.

Asked about the jump from the balloon, Connor told Archdeacon: “Imagine getting to the top floor of the Empire State Building and stepping through the elevator door, but there’s no elevator (car) and instantly you’re just plummeting straight down the shaft with no resistance.”

The Alpha 5 Project helped raise more than $1 million for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which helps the families of fallen soldiers, the museum said.

Saturday’s balloon inflation event is weather-dependent, the museum cautioned.

With free admission and parking, the Air Force Museum features more than 350 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space.

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