Cluster Balloonist Plans Transatlantic Flight

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Jonathan Trappe, who has flown his unusual lighter-than-air system over Lake Michigan (launching from Oshkosh) and across the English Channel, is now planning to attempt a trans-Atlantic flight next summer. This Friday, in Leon, Mexico, he plans to test-fly the seven-foot-long lifeboat that will hang suspended as a gondola beneath 365 helium balloons. Trappe has been scouting launch sites along the coast of Maine, and hopes to land somewhere near Paris -- although anywhere along the west coast of Europe or Africa will do.

Trappe plans to fly at altitudes of about 18,000 to 25,000 feet, with a canopy over the lifeboat to keep him warm and dry. He'll also carry oxygen, ballast, food and water, and survival gear in case he has to ditch short of his goal. Trappe has set up a crowd-sourced fundraising site at indiegogo.com to help raise money for the venture, which he says will also be the subject of a television documentary.