What would it be like to grab hold of a bunch of helium balloons (or tie them to a chair, or a house) and just float away? Where would the wind take you?
Well, Jonathan Trappe of North Carolina can tell you. Last week, he took off in a specially-designed chair, held aloft by a huge cluster of balloons, and floated across the English Channel. I didn’t even know that was possible.
After scouting out the flight in March and then getting clearance from both the British and French aviation and customs officials (and the farmer whose cabbage patch he landed in), Trappe set off from Kent, England. He landed in France about five hours later by snipping away a few balloons.
Trappe isn’t no stranger to this mode of travel. Last month, he set a record for the longest free-floating balloon flight after blowing around for 14 hours on the North Carolina breeze. On another flight, he almost reached the height of controlled airspace (18,000 feet).
This last part sounds kind of scary. I mean, yes, his balloon chair isn’t just your average lawn chair or recliner (Trappe’s chair is equipped with aircraft transponders and radios, an oxygen supply, satellite and radio tracking, as well as an emergency locator beacon — you know, just in case), but how does he steer it? Does he even steer it, or does he just count on the wind blowing the way he wants to go? What if he flies into a flock of very-pointy-beaked birds? Or a storm? Does he carry a parachute on board?
I’m curious, and intrigued.
On the one hand, it’s an incredibly quirky and whimsical kind of story — “Man ties balloons to chair, floats away.” On the other hand, it sounds kind of dangerous. This isn’t a Pixar animation, after all; this is a real person tying balloons to a chair and floating away.
What do you think? Does this sound like a leisurely activity, or the next big adventure sport? My guess is that it could be both.
Check out Trappe’s website, here. You can read about his other balloon flights.