AN AVIATOR yesterday began the world’s first attempt to cross the Atlantic ocean dangling from a massive bunch of balloons.
Cluster balloonist Jonathan Trappe, 39, achieved lift-off at 11:20am GMT in heavy fog from Caribou, Maine, in the US and is aiming for Europe.
Like a storyline from the Disney movie Up, Mr Trappe will attempt to make the 2,500-mile solo trip, dangling from 370 balloons filled with helium.
The journey is the first of its kind and a successful crossing will see Mr Trappe fly into the history books as the first person ever to scale the ocean in a flight of this type.
Winds could see him land anywhere between Iceland and Morocco after a journey expected to take between three and five days.
Mr Trappe is relying on weather data from the meteorologist who advised Felix Baumgartner on his record-breaking skydive from the stratosphere last year.
The latest weather reports before the launch suggested winds would carry Mr Trappe and his balloons to western Europe. “Weather is absolutely the most dangerous factor,” said Mr Trappe speaking before he lifted off.
“But it’s a double-edged sword. It’s the only thing that will carry me across, but bad conditions could also ruin the attempt or endanger my life.”
Mr Trappe and his team had faced an agonising wait of more than 100 days in Caribou for weather conditions good enough to carry him.
Mr Trappe, an IT technical project manager from Raleigh, North Carolina, said: “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.
“I need to get on them and ride them across like a conveyor belt.”
During the crossing, Mr Trappe faces climbing as high as 25,000ft to ride the winds that will he hopes will propel him towards Europe.
To ascend he’ll drop ballast and will pop balloons or release them into the air if he needs to fly lower.
Mr Trappe holds the record for the longest cluster balloon flight of 14 hours.