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Balloonist Prepares To Launch Across Atlantic

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Jonathan Trappe, who has flown his custom cluster-balloon systems across the English Channel and the Alps, is now in Caribou, Maine, assembling a huge system that he plans to fly across the Atlantic, launching sometime Thursday. Col. Joe Kittinger, the last balloonist to cross from the U.S. to Europe, in 1984, is on site to provide support, and Don Day, the same meteorologist who advised the Red Bull Stratos launch, also is working with Trappe. Close to 100 volunteers, comprising fellow pilots and balloonists as well as trained local residents, are standing by to help assemble the 370 small helium balloons that will carry Trappe and his gondola -- actually, a small boat -- across the ocean. AVweb's Mary Grady was traveling to the launch site Wednesday and expects to be filing reports from Caribou.

Trappe has been preparing for the flight for two years, and has been based in Caribou for several months, waiting for the best possible weather system. "Two years of work, and years more of dreams," Trappe posted on his website on Wednesday morning. "The Atlantic Ocean has been crossed many times, and in many ways, but never quite like this. An expedition of a scope and scale spanning countries, continents, and thousands of miles of open ocean -- the big blue deep -- as traversed from the big blue sky." Trappe expects the flight will take three to six days; his progress can be followed on his Facebook page and via satellite tracker. AVweb spoke with Trappe in June as he undertook preparations in Maine; you can listen to the podcast here.AVweb first ran across Trappe at EAA AirVenture in 2010; click here for the video.

Col. Kittinger and Trappe consult with meteorologist Day on Monday.

Helium tanks are laid out in a field in preparation for inflation.

Ballast for the launch. All images courtesy of Jonathan Trappe.

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