American sets off for Europe in rainbow balloon

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WASHINGTON : In a scene reminiscent of the Pixar movie “Up,” an American adventurer set off yesterday in a daring bid to drift across the Atlantic in a wildly colorful cluster balloon.

By sunset local time (2300 GMT), Jonathan Trappe was approaching Corner  Brook, on the west coast of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador,  satellite tracking websites indicated.

“In the quiet sky, above the great Gulf of St. Lawrence, traveling over 50  mph in my little yellow rowboat at 18,000 feet,” or 80 kilometers per hour and  5,500 meters, wrote Trappe earlier on Facebook.
 
Trappe, a technical projects manager and ballooon enthusiast from North  Carolina, departed at dawn from Caribou, Maine to the strains of “The  Star-Spangled Banner” and cheers from his ground crew who had spent the night  inflating his craft’s 370 balloons with helium.
 
The scene drew inevitable comparisons to “Up,” although for a gondola,  Trappe opted for an orange survival dinghy instead of the Victorian house that  appears in the cartoon.
 
Trappe, who has previously flown cluster balloons over the English Channel  and the Alps, has said he expects his journey to take three to six days,  depending on weather.
 
“I could literally land in North Africa, Portugal, Spain, France, the  United Kingdom (or) all the way up to Norway,” he told the Bangor Daily News in  Maine back in February when he was finalizing his plans.
 
His craft, with the US registration number N878UP, has been certified as  airworthy by the Federal Aviation Administration.-- AFP

In this photo provided by Mark McBreairty, a balloon cluster carrying Jonathan Trappe lifts off from Caribou, Maine, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. Unlike a conventional hot-air balloon, Trappe lifted off Thursday using hundreds of helium-filled balloons clustered together. Trappe hopes to be the first person to successfully complete a trans-Atlantic flight using the balloon cluster. (AP Photo/Mark McBreairty)


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