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Characters in Flight balloon

The operator of the Characters in Flight balloon at Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney area has revealed that it will be replaced.

Characters in Flight is currently out of action after a similar balloon, also operated by French firm Aerophile, was involved in a serious accident in Hong Kong. It is not now expected to return to action until much later in 2012, with Walt Disney World having removed all mention of the attraction from its official website.

While the existing balloon is still undergoing an inspection to see if it is affected by the same issues that caused the Hong Kong incident, The Orlando Sentinel reports that it will be replaced by an entirely new balloon when Characters in Flight reopens. Aerophile claims that the balloon was due to be replaced in November even before the accident.

The incident in Hong Kong took place at Ocean Park, one of Asia's leading theme parks. It saw the tethered helium balloon plummet to the ground after it began to leak, causing injuries to five guests. Four of the injured guests were in the balloon itself, with the other being struck by it after it fell to the ground.

Characters in Flight offers guests a birds-eye view of the Walt Disney World Resort, floating into the skies from its tethered position in Downtown Disney's Village Lake. It was one of a spate of minor additions to Downtown Disney in 2009 following criticism that the closure of the Pleasure Island nightclubs had reduced the area's appeal.

The balloon can hold up to 29 guests at a time, and currently holds the title of being the world's largest tethered gas balloon. A similar attraction is also in place at Disneyland Paris, where it is known as PanoraMagique and is also closed for inspection at the present time.

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