Jonathan Trappe's ClusterBalloon.com

Trappe Flights: For many of our flights, a full flight-report is available. Click the image to see photos and read the full report.

Chairway To Heaven

Chairway To Heaven: June 7th, 2008
Gas cluster flown above a standard office chair. Flight reached altitudes approaching 15,000 feet, lasted 4 hours, and ranged over about 50 miles of North Carolina.

Additional Accounts: News & Observer; N&O Gallery; Accenture; HotAir.nl; XLTA.org; Triangle Business Journal; BALLOONING Magazine; New York Times (excerpt)

Blueberry Cluster

Blueberry Cluster: August 31st, 2008
10 hour flight in the skies over Indiana! 38 blue-and-white balloons formed the 'Blueberry Cluster' which ranged over 87 miles and achieved a peak altitude of 17,930 feet. [ ! ]

Additional Accounts: The South Bend Tribune; The Pilot News;

N878UP - Flying Chair

Carl Fredricksen's Flying Armchair! April 22nd - May 29th, 2009
Team built and flew an armchair in 20 U.S. Cities to promote the launch of Disney/Pixar film UP! The film reached #1 at the box office, and we achieved flights in Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Washington D.C plus more, including a launch off the deck of a U.S. Aircraft Carrier, the USS Midway!

Additional Accounts: Star Tribune (.mp4 video); UltraFlight Radio Interview (.mp3); BALLOONING Magazine; Balloon Sport Magazine (German);

N878UP - The Spirit Cluster

The Spirit Cluster: April 10th-11th, 2010
Guinness World Record Flight! Longest cluster balloon flight of all time; World's first overnight cluster flight, launching in the daylight, surviving the night, and greeting the sun from the sky at the following dawn. Flight of approximately 14 hours, reaching 7,500 feet while covering 109 miles.

Additional Accounts: Bob & Sheri Show (.mp3); EAA e-Hotline News; AOPA Online; The Fayetteville Observer; NPR: The Story, with Dick Gordon (.mp3); CBS Inside Edition; Flieger Magazin (German); Sport Aviation Magazine;

N878UP - The Channel Cluster

The Channel Cluster: The English Channel! May 28, 2010
It is such a classic challenge, isn’t it? That iconic ribbon of water separating the UK from the continent has called to aviators for generations, tempting them to cross since long before you or I were born. Bleriot crossed in 1909. Bryan Allen in 1979. Yves Rossy crossed in 2008. Yost & Piccard made it; John Jeffries and Jean-Pierre Blanchard floated though the air above that tiny arm of the Atlantic earlier than anyone. And here it is, the English Channel, continuing to call to us. In the early morning hours of May 28th, 2010, we had an outstanding adventure covering over 75 miles, of which 41 miles was over open water, traveling internationally between England and France, and undertaking that classic challenge: The English Channel.

The Oshkosh Cluster

The Oshkosh Cluster July 29-30, 2010
Launching from one of the great events in aviation: Oshkosh Airventure. I launched from that storied event and my cluster balloon system flew alongside the Goodyear Blimp and then out to the east as the sun set. I climbed and obtained altitude before watching the sun set from the sky. After dark had settled in, I took the sky above that freshwater inland sea: Lake Michigan. Over 100 miles later, I made landfall in Michigan. Before I landed I had covered 240 miles total, on an 11.5 hour flight. What an uncommon way to fly.

Additional Accounts: AirVenture Today; The BBC World Service;

N878UP - La Independencia

La Independencia! National Flag of Mexico, in Leon MX! November 19, 2010
We had the honor of being invited to fly the colors of the national flag of Mexico. Into the skies went a giant, three tier cluster balloon system, with each tier bearing a color representing an element of the flag: Green, for Hope; White for Unity; Red, for the Blood of Hero's! Then, centered in the tower of balloons was a very special cell: The Eagle, the Serpent, the Cactus: together, the Great Seal of Mexico. We launched out of Leon and that Great Eagle carried us for 8 hours into blue skies of Mexico, crossing mountains, lakes, and covering over 100 miles before a rather unusual landing! Viva Independencia!

Flying House!

Flying House! March 5th, 2011
What can I say: it was a flying HOUSE! I was lashed to the load ring at landing, so I couldn't get knocked away. I hadn't secured my Gatorade bottle before the landing sequence. I Landed- Whoom! Very solid. Gatorade didn't spill. I can now say "I landed a house once, and didn't even spill my drink." True story, that.  (82,300 cu/ft Helium)

Additional Accounts: Good Morning America; NBC News; Gizmodo; EAA; AVweb; BallonSport Magazin (Germany);

Flying House!

The Alps Cluster: September 10-11, 2011France 5
Overnight above the Alps, launching into the darkness, and the cold. It was so bitter cold in the long hours overnight, as I floated above that great mountain range. There is so much effort required to go aloft under these toy balloons-- it is a completely unreasonable way to fly. Then, the dawn came-- rumors of light to start with. But the rumors turned to promises, and promises delivered the sun to the sky. I crossed the Alps and was delivered into the fertile plains of Italy, for a soft landing just east of Turin. Outstanding. Additional Accounts:The Telegraph UK (video); Daily Mail; Metro; Discovery Channel; France 5 - Full TV show;

The Degawa Cluster

The Degawa Cluster: March 6th, 2012
Riddles at the End of the EarthWe stood this cluster in the deep chill: 24-degrees Fahrenheit during inflation.Ice formed on the balloons in the night. As we assembled the cluster, flakes of ice broke off and snowed down on us. We launched at dawn on an 8.5 hour flight over North Carolina. So high: 18,000 feet-- three times-- and so cold, dropping to -19° Centigrade during flight. Extensively covered on Japanese TV program 'Riddles at the End of the Earth.'

Additional Accounts:The Statesville Record & Landmark; Gas Division Newsletter

The Degawa Cluster

Flying Boat - Trans-Atlantic Shakeout Test: November 16th, 2012
For many months I planned on launching this little yellow lifeboat into the skies above Mexico, and then landing it on a lake. This was to test our ability to get it oriented bow-first into the water, facing the direction of travel, and test that we may be able to survive a ditching at sea. The video tells the story of that splashdown. We continued for a total flight of 7.5 hours, touching 20,000 feet MSL and covering 118 miles.

Additional Accounts:UK Daily Mail; Barcroft Media Video

The Degawa Cluster

Casas Yes Flying House!: November 18th, 2012
We partnered with the home builder Casas Yes who crafted a little house we could fly, beautiful in its colors, lovely in its execution. We took that house into the skies, in manned flight. It sounds like a legend: "Children, let me tell you: every year, in Leon Mexico, on one particular day, just after dawn, a house wakes up and takes to the sky under helium balloons. Children, I tell you it is true." I was there, flying a house, one time, in Mexico. You can see us in quiet flight in the video.

Additional Accounts:The Telegraph; Rockstar Countdown Video; Live Your Dreams Video; Flight Of the Casas Yes House; Flight Of the Casas Yes House;

The Newfoundland Express

Trans-Atlantic Attempt - Newfoundland Express: September 12th, 2013
The largest cluster balloon system ever built; the greatest distance ever covered by this uncommon form of aircraft; the most successful flight of its type. I departed from the most Northeastern city in in the United States, Caribou, Maine, and flew across Maine, then New Brunswick Canada, past Prince Edward Island, and over the great Gulf of St. Lawrence, a 318 mile open water crossing. I set down many hours later in the province of Newfoundland & Labrador, having covered 466 miles since my launch in Maine.

N6326T

America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race: October 6th - 9th, 2008
Set race record for longest flight: 68 hours, 46 minutes non-stop. Flew over 1,214 miles, covering six U.S. states. Landed 790 miles from the high New Mexico desert launch site.  Flight across Jemez Mountains, Palo Duro canyon, Dead Man mesa, and the Missouri River results in being awarded 2nd place in overall competition.  (35,000 cu/ft, Helium )

Additional Accounts: Balloon Sport Magazine; GasBalloon.be; The Source: Prestigious People

High Altitude Chamber

United States Air Force High Altitude Chamber: August 7th, 2008
High altitude training flight to 25,000 feet in chamber at Andrew's Air Force Base. Pre-breathe 100% pure oxygen to purge nitrogen from the blood before launching into thin air. This amazing flight program, which is part of the FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, allowed me to go very high, become very hypoxic, and quite loopy-- so that I know what to look for should this happen when flying under my balloon system.

Juliet

Cloudhopper: N2011J - Recurring
34,000 cu/ft (hot-air): Cameron M-34 Cloudhopper N2011J, named 'Juliet.' (That story had a happy ending, didn't it?) This beautiful one-man hot air balloon is flown in North Carolina, and around the country, regularly.

 
D-OBYN

Wörner Gas Balloon: D-OBYN - August 24th, 2008
35,000 cu/ft (Hydrogen): We traveled to Germany to launch this hydrogen balloon out of the Gladbeck balloon port-- also known as "Willie Eimer's Balloon Port" in deference to the tremendous work Willie devoted to creating this wonderful 'Gasballon Startzplätz.' The flight launched in the dead of night and flew over the beautiful lights of the industrial city Dortmund. Then we went up above the clouds for sunrise before landing nearly six hours after launch in the German countryside, near the village of Wolfhagen. Dream flight with fairy tale landing piloted with world champions Bob Berben (Gordon Bennett Champion, 2005) and Troy Bradley (55 world records.)

Bradley 014: N3027Z

Bradley Gas Balloon: N3027Z - May 14th, 2008
14,000 cu/ft (Helium): This small helium balloon has been flown to several world records by world-class balloonist Troy Bradley. When we flew together in this balloon, in May of 2008, we launched the first standard gas balloon to take-off in the Carolinas in over 20 years. This 6.5 hour flight included two cluster balloon cells, to test them at altitude in preparation for the Chairway to Heaven flight. 

Additional Accounts:Gas Division Newsletter;

N707GH

Wörner Gas Balloon: N707GH - March 16th, 2010
35,000 cu/ft (Hydrogen): Hydrogen over the Americas! Since the Hindenberg accident in 1937, the use of hydrogen in manned flight has been sparse in the United States. In the pre-dawn hours of March 16th we inflated this gas balloon with 1,000 cubic meters of hydrogen, which has better lifting properties than helium, plus some other exciting characteristics. The inflation produced about 2,200 pounds of gross lift, and the proud aircraft carried four souls aloft into the skies high above the arid New Mexico desert. We crossed directly over the ABQ International Airport and reached a peak altitude of 10,800 feet on our nearly 9-hour flight as we silently headed south down the Rio Grande valley.

Additional Accounts:Video: Standing The Balloon;

DOEIM - Hydrogen

Wörner Gas Balloon: DOEIM - June 8th, 2010
35,000 cu/ft (Hydrogen): International flight, launching from Gladbeck, Germany traveling through the skies for 4 hours 35 minutes to our soft landing in The Netherlands, near the village of Oost Gelre. Flew with pilot Willie Eimers, champion balloonist and three time winner of the oldest race in all of aviation, and certainly the most prestigious race in ballooning: The Gordon Bennett.

 

Historic Flights:

Dr. Jean Piccard flew the first gas cluster balloon system on July 18th, 1937. Dr. Piccard was a Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Minnesota and an eminent balloonist. Clearly a brilliant man, Dr. Piccard flew a two-tier hydrogen system of about 95 cells. Interestingly, Dr. Piccard rigged a TNT charge between the two tiers of hydrogen filled balloons. When approaching landing, Dr. Piccard triggered the TNT charge, which freed the top tier of balloons and caused the system to land quite readily. Unfortunately, burning embers from the TNT charge drifted down to the bottom tier of balloons, causing the hydrogen to ignite. The headline in the New York Times the next day read: "DR. PICCARD DOWN ON IOWA TREE-TOP; BALLOON CAR BURNS." Dr. Jean Piccard escaped without injury. [ NYT1, NYT2, NYT3 ]

Twenty years later, Dr. Jean Piccard’s son, Don Piccard, took a a cluster system on a two-hour ride to over 4,000 feet. Don is an accomplished balloonist and one of the participants in much of early ballooning history. Don’s cluster system flew, landed safely, and garnered the attention of Life Magazine. The October 7th, 1957 edition features a multi-page story on Don’s flight.

Then, there is Larry Walters. Ah, the ill-prepared aviation dreamer, Lawnchair Larry. In 1982, while floating tethered to the surface in a Lawnchair attached to multiple large helium balloons, Larry’s craft broke free of his tether lines before he was ready and Larry shot up so fast that his glasses were jerked from his face. He went to approximately 16,000 feet, flew 45 minutes in the congested San Diego airspace, landed in power lines, and walked away unharmed. When asked why he did it, Larry is quoted as having said “A man can’t just stay at home.”

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