North Carolina resident Jonathan Trappe has a fun hobby - He 'flies' around the skies seated in an office chair that is attached to a cluster of helium balloons. In 2012, at the Leon International Balloon Festival in Mexico, he even 'pulled' a Carl Fredericksen by flying a replica of the house that was featured in 'Up'.
Besides having fun, he has also broken several records including one for crossing the 22-mile long English Channel, as well as, for completing the longest cluster balloon flight ever, by floating 109 miles across the North Carolina skies. On Thursday, September 12th at 6.20 am, the adventurer set off from Caribou, Maine for his most ambitious attempt yet - Flying across the Atlantic to Europe, a 2,500 - 3,000 mile journey that could land him anywhere from Iceland to Morocco depending on the winds and take between 3-5 days to complete.
For this trip he tethered the 370 colorful helium balloons to a small yellow lifeboat in case he was forced to crash land in the middle of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. It was of course no ordinary lifeboat, but a high-tech custom version that was equipped with a GPS tracker, an aircraft transponder, an oxygen system, an aircraft radio, an emergency locator beacon and an in-flight satellite tracking system. And while it may seem like overkill especially given that the 39-year old had a full ground crew monitoring his flight closely, it was all necessary considering how dangerous the mission was.
While Trappe is the first person to attempt crossing the Atlantic using a cluster of helium balloons he is not the first one ever. A total of 12 have tried the feat using modes of transport ranging from hot-air to single gas balloons. So far, only two have succeed - A team of three that made history in 1978 when they became the first to cross the treacherous ocean from Presque Isle, Maine to the coast of Ireland and Colonel Joe Kittinger who in 1984 became the first person to fly solo from Caribou, Maine, to Cairo Montenotte, Italy, a distance 3,543 miles in 86 hours.
But the odds did not deter Trappe who was raring to go after having waited for more than three months for the optimal weather conditions. Amidst the background of the US national anthem and cheers from his fans, Jonathan launched off successfully into the foggy skies and soon after, posted this cheerful message on his Facebook page - "In the quiet sky, above the great Gulf of St. Lawrence, traveling over 50 mph in my little yellow rowboat at 18,000 feet,"
Unfortunately, the optimism turned out to be short-lived - By sunset, the adventurer had another message for his fans - "Landed safe, at an alternate location- Remote" and then shortly after that "Hmm, this doesn't look like France."
That's because the adventurer was nowhere close to his destination, but instead had been forced to make an emergency landing about 350 miles from where he first took off, in a remote area west of Corner Brook, Newfoundland, that ironically happened to be close to 'Blow Me Down' park! While details on what happened are still being investigated, Trappe's team said that he had experienced technical difficulties with the balloons that had forced him to cut short his ambitious journey. Landing in pitch dark, the adventurer later confided that he had not known if he would survive the landing. Fortunately, he escaped unscathed. We have a feeling that this tiny setback is not going to deter the balloonist from trying again - So stay tuned!
Resources: news.yahoo.com, dailymail.co.uk