Trappe Flies Again


image: courtesy of Anil Jacob

Pilot Jonathan Trappe, who has flown his unique cluster-balloon systems across the English Channel, Lake Michigan, and the Alps, last week completed his first flight in more than a year, launching from Decatur, Alabama, and landing about nine hours later, 160 miles away, in Ellijay, Georgia. “We flew on November 21, which is Montgolfier Day, the anniversary of the first hot-air balloon flight, in 1783,” Trappe told AVweb this week. He said while on his previous flights he was often pushing the limits of the technology — culminating in an attempt to cross the Atlantic in September 2013 — this flight was just for fun. “It’s just great to go fly,” he said. “AVweb readers, other pilots, will understand this … that’s what this flight was about.”

image: courtesy of Jonathan Trappe

The aircraft consists of a cluster of small helium-filled balloons and a gondola for the pilot, which in this system looks like a comfortable living-room chair, but is in fact a custom-built control center with a carbon-fiber frame. Trappe descends by releasing or popping individual balloons — each balloon produces about a 150 foot per minute rate of descent. To climb, he can release ballast, in the same way as a conventional gas balloon pilot. Trappe said he may fly again in 2015, though he hasn’t yet settled on a flight profile — perhaps a high-altitude flight, to 30,000 feet or higher, or maybe a long-distance “epic” flight launching from the West Coast to see how far he could fly to the east. “Every flight is an adventure,” he says. “You just cast yourself into the sky, and ride the wind, to destinations unknown.”