US adventurer crosses English Channel with bundle of helium balloons
LONDON — In a goofy yet mesmerizing stunt, an American adventurer crossed the English Channel yesterday carried by a bundle of helium balloons, ending a quiet and serene flight by touching down in a French cabbage patch.
Jonathan Trappe, 36, of Raleigh, N.C., was strapped in a specially equipped chair below a bright cluster of balloons when he lifted off early yesterday from Kent, in southeast England.
About five hours later, he lowered himself into a French field by cutting some of the balloons away.
“It was just an exceptional, quiet, peaceful experience,’’ Trappe told Sky News television, which covered the adventure.
Asked why he went, Trappe replied: “Didn’t you have this dream, grabbing on to a bunch of toy balloons and floating off? I think it’s something that’s shared across cultures and across borders — just this wonderful fantasy of grabbing on to toy balloons and floating into open space.’’
However, the channel crossing wasn’t a matter of just grabbing a few balloons. Trappe says on his website that he made a scouting trip in March and gained clearance from French and British aviation authorities and from customs and immigration offices on both sides.
His equipment list didn’t stop at balloons and a chair, but included an aircraft transponder, oxygen system, aircraft radios, emergency locator beacon, in-flight satellite tracking, and a radio tracker.
Last month, Trappe claimed the record for the longest free-floating balloon flight after spending 14 hours blowing in the wind over North Carolina and traveling 109 miles. On another flight, his website says he ascended to 17,930 feet, just below controlled airspace.
“There are risks and we work to methodically reduce the risk so we can have a safe and fun flight,’’ said Trappe, who is certified for balloon flight by the US Federal Aviation Administration. “Because really it’s only about dreams and enjoying an adventure, and that’s only enjoyable when it is safe.’’