Cluster flight: Raleigh man attempts Atlantic crossing
Posted September 13, 2013
CARIBOU, Maine — Hundreds of multicolored balloons were used Thursday to launch a balloonist for a trans-Atlantic crossing that looked like a page taken from the script of the movie "Up."
But within 24 hours, North Carolina native Jonathan Trappe was back on the ground, his dream of an Atlantic crossing at least on hold.
Trappe, an IT manager from Raleigh, lifted off using more than 300 helium-filled balloons, like those used in in the animated movie, with a goal of spending up to a week aloft, riding wind currents that could take him to northern Africa or Norway.
Trappe's goal is to float across the ocean. He completed a trip across the English Channel in 2010.
"The Atlantic Ocean has been crossed many times, and in many ways, but never quite like this," Trappe said on his website, which detailed his efforts.
Caribou, Me., City Manager Austin Bleess said about 150 volunteers assisted in filling the helium balloons starting Wednesday night. Trappe and his balloons lifted off from a foggy softball field near the Canadian border at sunrise Thursday.
"Man, it was awesome," Bleess said. "It was amazing to watch."
On Thursday night, Trappe wrote on his Facebook page that he had landed safely at a remote location and would spend the night there. Tracking software showed he was in Newfoundland, near a place called Blow Me Down Provincial Park.
Trappe's friend, Paul Wilder, told WRAL News Friday morning, "As you know, Jonathan, (who I sometimes refer to as 'Mr. Up') is down."
Canadian Police say he reported having trouble controlling the balloons, forcing him to land.
Trappe is no stranger to the cluster balloons. He's used them to fly in an office chair, and he's used them to lift a faux house, just like in the Disney-Pixar movie. For his trans-Atlantic crossing, he rigged as his basket a lifeboat that could be used if he had to ditch in the ocean.
Trappe worked on the trans-Atlantic crossing for two years and hoped to be the first person to succeed in doing so with a cluster of balloons.