NC man crosses English Channel with balloons

American cluster balloonist Jonathan Trappe holds onto his balloons after landing on farmland in Moeres, France, Friday May 28, 2010. Trappe took off from Challock, England, to become the first person to cross the English Channel in a chair attached to helium balloon. Trappe had been planning the flight for several months, after setting a world record for the longest free-floating balloon flight of 14 hours in the skies above North Carolina. (Gareth Fuller-pa)

May 27, 2010 9:00:00 PM PDT
In a goofy yet mesmerizing stunt, an American adventurer from North Carolina crossed the English ChannelOn Friday the man, tied to a bundle of helium balloons, ended his quiet and serene flight in the middle of a French cabbage patch.

Jonathan Trappe, 36, of Raleigh, N.C., was strapped in a specially equipped chair below a bright cluster of balloons when he lifted off early Friday from Kent, in southeast England. About five hours later, he lowered himself into a French field by cutting some of the balloons away.

"It was just an exceptional, quiet, peaceful experience," Trappe told Sky News television, which covered the adventure. Asked why he went, Trappe replied: "Didn't you have this dream, grabbing on to a bunch of toy balloons and floating off? I think it's something that's shared across cultures and across borders -- just this wonderful fantasy of grabbing on to toy balloons and floating into open space."

Last month, Trappe claimed the record for the longest free-floating balloon flight after spending 14 hours blowing in the wind over North Carolina and traveling 109 miles. On another flight, his website says he ascended to 17,930 feet, just below controlled airspace.

"There are risks and we work to methodically reduce the risk so we can have a safe and fun flight," said Trappe, who is certified for balloon flight by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. "Because really it's only about dreams and enjoying an adventure, and that's only enjoyable when it is safe."

His crossing was much less eventful than the first balloon crossing of the English Channel in 1785.

The pioneering French balloonist Jean-Pierre Francois Blanchard and John Jeffries, an American doctor who paid for the flight, set off in a hydrogen balloon which started leaking in flight. The pair dumped all their ballast and most of their clothes into the water and just managed to stay airborne and land in Calais.

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