In a goofy yet mesmerizing stunt, an American adventurer crossed the English Channel on Friday carried by a bundle of helium balloons, ending a quiet and serene flight by touching down in a French cabbage patch.
Jonathan Trappe, 36, of Raleigh, North Carolina, was strapped in a specially equipped chair below a bright cluster of balloons when he lifted off early Friday from Kent, in southeast England.
About five hours later, he lowered himself into a French field by cutting some of the balloons away.
"It was just an exceptional, quiet, peaceful experience," Trappe told Sky News television, which covered the adventure.
Asked why he went, Trappe replied: "Didn't you have this dream, grabbing on to a bunch of toy balloons and floating off? I think it's something that's shared across cultures and across borders — just this wonderful fantasy of grabbing on to toy balloons and floating into open space."
However, the channel crossing wasn't a matter of just grabbing a few balloons. Trappe says on his website that he made a scouting trip in March and gained clearance from French and British aviation authorities and from customs and immigration offices on both sides.
His equipment list didn't stop at balloons and a chair, but included an aircraft transponder, oxygen system, aircraft radios, emergency locator beacon, in-flight satellite tracking and a radio tracker.
"He had all the correct authorization and I believe he even gave something to the owner of the land where he came down by way of damages," said a spokesman for French police.
Last month, Trappe claimed the record for the longest free-floating balloon flight after spending 14 hours blowing in the wind over North Carolina and traveling 109 miles. On another flight, his website says he ascended to 17,930 feet, just below controlled airspace.
"There are risks and we work to methodically reduce the risk so we can have a safe and fun flight," said Trappe, who is certified for balloon flight by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. "Because really it's only about dreams and enjoying an adventure, and that's only enjoyable when it is safe."
His crossing was much less eventful than the first balloon crossing of the English Channel in 1785.
The pioneering French balloonist Jean-Pierre Francois Blanchard and John Jeffries, an American doctor who paid for the flight, set off in a hydrogen balloon which started leaking in flight. The pair dumped all their ballast and most of their clothes into the water and just managed to stay airborne and land in Calais.