Monday, November 12, 2012

Cluster Balloonist Planning Atlantic Crossing

Cluster-balloonist Jonathan Trappe is planning his next big flight and it's a doozy. The man who once flew across the English Channel and the Alps by attaching a few dozen helium-filled balloons to his chair, has now set his sights on a much bigger prize. Trappe says that next summer he'll attempt to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in a seven-foot sailboat that will be held aloft by 365 balloons.

According to The Telegraph, Trappe is currently raising funds for the flight, which he estimates will cost about $300,000. He has already sunk $170,000 into the project and is now looking for investors, sponsors and donations. If he can pull together enough funding, he will then set off from Maine with an eye on arriving in Paris at the end of his journey.

The Atlantic crossing would cover approximately 2500 miles (4023 km), which is a daunting distance considering Trappe's previous longest flight was a mere 230 miles (370 km). This time out, he'll have more balloons and will be cruising at altitudes between 18,000 and 25,000 feet. (5485-7620 meters). At higher altitudes he'll wear an oxygen mask and sand bags will serve as ballasts.

So why exactly will he be flying in a sailboat? Simple, should he find himself in trouble over the ocean, he hopes to descend at a slow enough rate that he'll be able to safely land in the water and continue on towards the closest landmass. He's taking sailing lessons now in preparation for that contingency, which seems like a perfectly reasonable back-up plan in case he needs to ditch the balloons before reaching France. That is, as long as he is able to control the rate of descent.

I was a little in awe of Jonathan's previous two flights. I thought they were both a bit crazy, but he managed to keep things well under control and it never seemed like any real issues arose. Of course, they were both a lot shorter jaunts then his proposed crossing of the Atlantic. I guess we'll have to wait until next summer to see if he can pull it off.

Thanks to Outside Online for the tip!

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