Daredevil crosses Channel under cluster of balloons

28th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Like a scene from the Disney Pixar movie "Up", US daredevil Jonathan Trappe soared across the Channel on Friday in a chair slung under a multi-coloured cluster of helium balloons.

"It was immensely beautiful, iconic. The white cliffs of Dover, and then the coast of France. It was such a quiet, peaceful experience," the pilot told Sky News television after landing in a cabbage field in northern France.

Trappe made the record-breaking flight in a wicker basket borne aloft by a cloud of 55 helium-filled spheres, travelling around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Ashford in Kent, England to a French field outside Dunkirk.

Once he was over dry land he cut some of the balloons free and drifted safely to earth, confirming his status as the renowned pioneer of the flight technique he has called cluster ballooning.

"This is the first successful crossing of a substantial body of water," he said, describing how he had dodged power lines during his descent. "There is some danger, but we did everything methodically to reduce the risk."

Trappe is a registered pilot and his approximately four-hour flight was cleared by British aviation authorities.

The Channel has been an iconic challenge for aviators since Louis Bleriot first flew it in 1909, and Trappe's was the most spectacular stunt since Swiss inventor Yves "Rocketman" Rossy crossed in a jet-powered flight suit in 2008.

© 2010 AFP

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