Jonathan Trappe’s flights in his cluster-balloon craft have captured the hearts and imaginations of aviators; and just about everyone else. He now plans to launch his unique aircraft from the East Coast and ride the prevailing winds across the Atlantic – hopefully to Paris, but his final destination could end up being anywhere in Europe or even Africa.
In the past, Trappe has flown across Lake Michigan (launching from EAA AirVenture Oshkosh), the English Channel in May 2010 and the Alps in September 2011, taking off from France and landing in Italy.
But this trip would be different, planned to fly at altitudes as high as 25,000 feet. He intends to carry oxygen, food and water, survival gear and ballast in a lifeboat-size gondola suspended from 365 balloons filled with an estimated 106,000 cubic feet of helium.
The current altitude record for cluster ballooning is 19,685 feet, the last height recorded on a flight by Brazilian priest Adelir Antonio de Carli, who disappeared over the Atlantic in April 2008. His body was later recovered by an offshore oil rig support vessel. In November 1992, Yoshikazu Suzuki took off from Lake Biwa, Japan and was later spotted by an aircraft over the Pacific, but was never seen again.
Neither of these fatal flights was planned as ocean crossings, however. First test flight of Trappe’s craft is scheduled for tomorrow in Leon, Mexico. Funding for the trip comes from a public appeal on indiegogo.com which has, so far, raised $1,747 of the estimated $299,999 required for the project.