Pilot Crosses English Channel Under Cluster Balloons

A North Carolina man crossed the English Channel last week suspended from 54 helium-filled balloons. Jonathan Trappe flew from England to France — a distance of 22 miles — in approximately two hours drifting with the wind at altitudes as high as 7,500 feet. At times, his groundspeed reached 25 miles per hour. Trappe carries an FAA balloon pilot certificate and is featured on the cover of this month's EAA Sport Aviation Magazine. He rides in a harness and carries water-filled bags for ballast. For control, the bags can be drained to gain altitude, and balloons can be emptied of helium to descend. Directional control is achieved by climbing or descending into winds that match the desired track of flight. Look for Trappe at this year's EAA AirVenture Oshkosh show where he hopes to fly his unique "aircraft" pending conditions. Also visit his website at www.clusterballoon.com

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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