May 29, 2010
Daredevil takes balloon flight over Channel
American floats from England to France in record-breaking stunt
Mr Jonathan Trappe, 36, in flight yesterday with the 55 industrial strength multi-coloured helium balloons, which were strapped to his wicker chair. -- PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
PARIS: Like a scene from the Disney Pixar movie Up, United States daredevil Jonathan Trappe soared across the English Channel yesterday in a chair slung under a multi-coloured cluster of helium balloons.
'It was immensely beautiful, iconic. The white cliffs of Dover, and then the coast of France. It was such a quiet, peaceful experience,' the pilot told Sky News television after landing in a cabbage field in northern France.
Mr Trappe, 36, made the record-breaking flight in a wicker chair borne aloft by a cloud of 55 helium-filled spheres, travelling around 100km from Ashford in Kent, England, to a French field outside Dunkirk.
Once he was over dry land, he cut some of the balloons free and drifted safely to earth, confirming his status as the renowned pioneer of the flight technique he has called 'cluster ballooning'.
'This is the first successful crossing of a substantial body of water,' he said, describing how he had dodged power lines during his descent.
'There is some danger, but we did everything methodically to reduce the risk.'
Mr Trappe, who said he had fulfilled a lifelong dream, expected to reach heights of more than 2,130m but he said his final destination remained unknown because of the weather.
'Part of the adventure is you don't know when you need to land,' the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
The newspaper said Mr Trappe was equipped with a Global Positioning System on board but was without an immersion suit, which could have proved deadly if he had crashed into the freezing waters below.
Mr Trappe is a registered pilot and his approximately four-hour flight was cleared by the British aviation authorities.
In January, he set a world record for the longest free-floating balloon flight of 14 hours in the skies above North Carolina, his home state, the Mail said.
That flight took him to a height of 4,506m, where he faced temperatures of minus 15 deg C as he sat on a simple office chair, according to the newspaper.
The Channel has been an iconic challenge for aviators since Mr Louis Bleriot first flew across it in 1909, and Mr Trappe's was the most spectacular stunt since Swiss inventor Yves 'Rocketman' Rossy crossed in a jet-powered flight suit in 2008.