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The Spirit Cluster Sets 'Longest Flight' Record

Pilot, aircraft to appear at AirVenture

Balloon cluster

Cluster balloon
This inaugural flight of Trappe’s cluster balloons as a U.S. federally registered aircraft allowed Jonathan greater access to the national airspace system. With aviation lights on board, he was able to fulfill a long-held dream of flying underneath a silent cluster of balloons into the still of the night. Photo by Arnold Greenwell

Cluster balloon
Jonathan Trappe is a proud EAA member and thanks both EAA Chapter 1114, the Wings of Carolina Flying Club, and EAA headquarters for their support.

April 29, 2010 —On April 10, Jonathan Trappe, EAA 879217, accomplished what no other cluster balloonist has been able to accomplish since the first cluster balloon took to the sky in 1937; complete an overnight flight. Trappe lifted off in The Spirit Cluster under daylight, floated through hours of darkness, and greeted the sunrise while setting Guinness World Records for the longest flight in a cluster balloon and first overnight flight.

Launching from near Raleigh, North Carolina, posed many challenges, including choosing the right time of day to launch to take advantage of winds that would keep him from drifting over the Atlantic Ocean…or into restricted airspace over Pope Air Force Base…or the proper altitude to stay away from transmission towers. The 14-hour journey would include meeting enterprising and helpful HAM radio operators, and talking with RDU (Raleigh-Durham) air traffic control via his handheld radio, as well as hearing the sounds of frogs below and geese above in the still of the night.

Jonathan is a proud EAA member and his pride is evident throughout every aspect of the project. “As you’ve seen, the name of the system we flew that day is The Spirit Cluster; it was named in honor of the EAA and its motto, “The Spirit of Aviation,” Trappe wrote on his website. “I am an EAA member, and I was tremendously proud to have friends from EAA Chapter 1114 on the airfield, and friends from the national organization out to capture this flight. Thank you to the amazing team of (EAA Chief Photographer) Jim Koepnick and (Photo 1 Pilot) Bruce Moore, and to the Experimental Aircraft Association.”

A feature story about Jonathan’s flight will appear in the June issue of Sport Aviation. Jonathan and his balloon will also be at AirVenture 2010 where he plans to make at least one flight during the week. The award-winning Pixar movie, UP, which simulates floating a house with cluster balloons, will be shown during AirVenture on Saturday night, July 31, at the Fly-in Theater, presented by Ford Motor Company and supported by Hamilton Watches.

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