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Sunday 18 March 2018

Balloonist’s attempt to cross Atlantic ends after only 12 hours

Balloonist Jonathan Trappe lifts off from Caribou, Maine
Balloonist Jonathan Trappe lifts off from Caribou, Maine
Jonathan Trappe is trying to cross the Atlantic using a cluster of balloons

Chris Irvine

AVIATOR Jonathan Trappe’s attempt to become the first person ever to cross the Atlantic using 370 helium balloons has ended in failure – only 12 hours into the journey.

Mr Trappe was forced to make an early landing in Newfoundland, Canada, due to a technical issue.

Mr Trappe, 39, an IT consultant from Raleigh, North Carolina, took off on Thursday morning at 6.30am EDT, but only 12 hours later, Kevin Knapp, speaking from the command centre overseeing the flight, was he was forced to abandon the flight.

“Thankfully he is safe and well and currently making preparations to get home,” Mr Knapp said. “While disappointing that he had to cut his quest across the Atlantic short, I know Jonathan thanks everyone for their support and encouragement.”

Despite fears Atlantic weather systems would be the greatest obstacle to achieving his dream crossing, the landing was blamed on a technical problem relating to the balloons.

Fans of the adventurer who were following his movements via a satellite tracker were first alerted to his plight at around 7.30pm EST.

Mr Trappe wrote on his Facebook page: “Hmm, this doesn’t look like France.”

He later wrote: “Landed safe, at an alternate location. Remote. I put the exposure canopy up on the boat. Will stay here for the night.”

He had faced a 100 day wait for the right weather conditions, with local storms forcing him to stay grounded.

“It was nail biting waiting for a weather window that would allow me to get up into the air and catch those transatlantic winds we’d been seeing,” he said. “I need to get on them and ride them across like a conveyor belt.”

He already holds the record for the longest ever cluster balloon flight of 14 hours.

He became the only person to have crossed the English Channel by cluster balloon in May 2010, and the Alps in September 2011.

Previous flights have seen him travel in an office chair suspended by the balloons. This time he elected to dangle inside a small yellow life boat in case he ditched into the ocean.

While Mr Trappe was the first ever to attempt an Atlantic cluster balloon crossing, five people have died trying to cross the ocean in 12 total attempts using hot-air balloons or more conventional single gas balloons.

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