May 28th, 2010
10:58 AM ET

Man takes cue from 'UP,' floats across English Channel

The movie "UP" has sparked a renewed interest in the sport of cluster ballooning.

Remember "UP," the Pixar movie in which good ol’ cranky Carl hooks 20,000 helium-filled balloons to his house and floats away to South America?

It’s not as impossible as it looks.

American adventurer Jonathan R. Trappe strapped himself to a wicker chair – sans house – that was strung with 55 multicolored “chloroprene cloudbuster” balloons and successfully floated himself across the English Channel Friday morning.

Snipping off one eight-foot helium filled balloon at a time, Trappe, descended into a field in Dunkirk, northern France, after more than three hours in the air, according the UK’s Times newspaper.

Sure, he might not have flown as far – and possibly as high – as Carl, but Trappe’s latest trip is said to have made history: It’s the first successful cluster balloon flight over the 22-mile ribbon of water between U.K. and France.

Describing the trip the 36-year-old told SkyNews: “It was tremendously peaceful, tremendously beautiful… it was just an exceptionally quiet, peaceful experience.”

“Isn’t it everyone’s dream?” he said. “Grabbing on to toy balloons and flying off into open space?”

But not everyone can attempt such a feat. Trappe is FAA certified pilot with two dozen flights under his belt.

The only way to land in a cluster balloon flight is to cut off one balloon at a time and fine tune the descent by jettisoning water ballast. Trappe’s seat pod was packed with a location device and communication equipment.

Last month he claimed new world record for the longest free-floating balloon flight, flying 109 miles across North Carolina. He has also made flights using an office chair.

The balloons he adds “represent dreams... the uncommon, the unusual, the unlikely the impossible but true.”

The sport of cluster ballooning began in 1982 when Larry Walters flew across San Diego in a homemade craft reaching heights of 15,000 feet.

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Filed under: Air travel • United Kingdom
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. maestrogeek1

    It definitely needs pics.

    The poster worried about the birds his balloon choked is, well, in need of some distraction or focus.

    The movie UP was terrible. You people that liked it must also like being depressed a lot. Terrible kids movie.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • yourfriendlyneighborhoodcynicman

      you're a terrible kids movie. UP was great.

      May 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not worth it...

      "The poster worried about the birds his balloon choked is, well, in need of some distraction or focus."

      I think being concerned about environmental consequences resulting from 55 huge balloons falling to the earth for a completely pointless purpose is a perfectly valid focus.

      Also, Up was fantastic.

      May 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. maggie

    JKRC – Classy Brit? This guy is an American. Read the story.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. gary

    Another rich guy with too much time on his hands doing cool stuff while the rest of us are at work, whoop-de-do!!

    May 28, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Texas Pete

    Did the FAA certify his craft? Were French immigration officials standing by to deport him when he landed?

    May 28, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cami

    So funny – did he really get the idea from the movie? We watch Up DAILY at my 2 year old's request.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MIKI

    this guy is great ! just great !

    May 28, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. nav

    where do the balloons go after he cuts them away...?

    May 28, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan


      May 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • chance

      they are given to angel children, who skip gaily on the clouds while holding their new balloons

      May 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • ANDRON

      Nav, try spitting up in the air and you'd get your answer as to where the balloons go!!

      May 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • ANDRON

      Nav, what goes up...goes down!!!

      May 28, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. YardBoy

    Nothing ventured, nothing gained. At least this guy isn't speeding down the highway, burning up dinosaur juice while the Gulf suffocates, not bothering with his lane change signals, rolling thru stop signs, etc.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ron

    Already proven by Mythbusters Season 1

    May 28, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Diece

    Worthless without pictures??? There was a time when "pictures" were rare. Use your imagination! Geez!!

    May 28, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Andy

    Wonder if you could fly from Mexico to Arizona 🙂

    May 28, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • chance

      Better add DART GUNS to the budget for border control

      May 28, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rick McDaniel

    The question is......did he secure a tourist visa????

    May 28, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Danni

    Jonathan was not inspired by the movie – he has flown cluster balloons for a long time. In fact, Disney used Jonathan to fly a replica of Carl's chair from the move in dozens of cities across the US to promote the movie.
    Jonathan is a very expereinced gas and hot air balloon pilot.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Danni is 110% corrent on that info!

      May 28, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tom

    Kinda silly really...the Channel has been crossed many times over. It's only about 21 miles. This is no different than crossing it in a hot air balloon! He needs to get a job!

    May 28, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Shannon

    I'm sure the UK is thrilled to see how easy it would be for the hundreds of illegal immigrants waiting in Calis to float across on lawn chairs. Are they going to have Romanians dropping from the sky strapped to Lazy-Boys'?

    May 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
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