Man's bid to cross Atlantic under cluster of balloons a bust

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by CBS News

KMOV.com

Posted on September 13, 2013 at 7:38 AM

Updated Friday, Sep 13 at 8:50 AM

(CBS News) A North Carolina man set out to make history on Thursday. His aim was to travel from the United States to Europe using hundreds of helium balloons. However, the trip hasn’t gone according to plan.

The multicolored launch looked like a scene out of a Hollywood movie, but Jonathan Trappe’s dream to reach Europe was short-lived, ending just 12 hours after it began in a remote part of Canada. He was forced to land on the west coast Newfoundland Thursday night.

The bizarre, if beautiful, liftoff began with a countdown, a kiss, and some kind words to Trappe from an onlooker: “Your dream is coming true!”

That dream—and 370 balloons of every color in the rainbow—lifted Trappe upward from a soggy softball field in Caribou, Maine, just a few miles from the Canadian border.

The 39-year-old businessman and licensed pilot hoped to become the first person ever to float across the Atlantic Ocean in a capsule suspended by a cluster of helium-filled balloons.

But just 12 hours after his splashy departure, Trappe was forced to return to Earth. CBS News’ Michelle Miller reported on “CBS This Morning,” that in a statement, representatives for Trappe cited a “technical issue” as the reason behind the forced landing.

On his Facebook page, he wrote “hmm, this doesn’t look like France,” and then, “landed safe, at an alternate location. Remote. I put the exposure canopy up on the boat. Will stay here for the night.”

A GPS tracker shows Trappe to have reached an altitude of more than 20,000 feet before descending and landing in a remote part of Newfoundland.

Trappe’s fantasy seems almost torn from Disney’s 2009 fantasy film, “Up.” But Trappe is no stranger to the art of cluster ballooning. In 2010, Trappe became the first person to use the method to cross the 22-mile English Channel - along for the ride in a wicker chair. A year later, he set another record, completing a 12-hour journey over the Alps in a craft lifted by 54 balloons, which Trappe individually cut away to return to Earth.

But his planned, 2,500 mile trip across the ocean carried far more risk than anything he’s done before.

In a preparation video, Trappe can be seen cataloging his gear equipped for severely low temperatures, including a cold water survival suit and multiple sleeping bags, among other items.

Trappe spent two years preparing for the journey, which was to have taken up to six days to complete.

At this point, it is still unknown whether Trappe will take another shot at achieving his dream, Miller added on “CTM.”

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