Balloons and a Chair: The Only Way to Fly (to France)


Taking a cue from Calvin and Hobbes, an American adventurer has successfully crossed the English Channel in an office chair tethered to a bunch of big, colorful helium balloons.

Jonathan Trappe of North Carolina is a man with a vision. Specifically, a vision of floating through the sky in a chair strapped to a bunch of balloons. But unlike most people, who have the common sense to leave such flights of fancy firmly in the realm of the imagination, Trappe decided to actually make it happen.

His journey, which he described as an “exceptional, quiet, peaceful experience,” began in Kent in southeast England and lasted for about five hours, eventually coming to an end in a French cabbage patch after he cut away a few of the balloons in order to descend. “Didn’t you have this dream, grabbing on to a bunch of toy balloons and floating off?” Trappe said when asked why he did it. “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.”

He’s not just a wacko with some helium and a lot of free time, however. Before heading over to Old Blighty, the fully-licensed balloonist conducted a 14-hour test flight at an altitude of 7000 feet over his home state, earning him a world record for the longest “cluster balloon” flight. He also brought along an aircraft transponder, oxygen, aircraft radios, emergency locator beacon and satellite and radio tracking equipment, and even pre-cleared his trip with British and French aviation, customs and immigration officials.

“I believe he even gave something to the owner of the land where he came down by way of damages,” a spokesman for French police said.

“There are risks and we work to methodically reduce the risk so we can have a safe and fun flight,” Trappe added. “Because really it’s only about dreams and enjoying an adventure, and that’s only enjoyable when it is safe.”


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