Transatlantic Cluster Balloon Attempt Fails, Pilot Safe
Friday the 13th came early for cluster balloonist and radio amateur Jonathan Trappe, KJ4GQV, of Raleigh, North Carolina. Trappe’s attempt to cross the Atlantic in a cluster balloon ended the evening of September 12, when he “Landed safe, at an alternate location,” as he put it in a Facebook post. That “alternate location” was in Newfoundland, where he remained for the night.
His lighter-than-air craft hoisted aloft by some 365 individual and colorful helium balloons took off September 12 at 1200 UTC from a ball field in Caribou, Maine. Trappe carried Amateur Radio beacons on 14.0956 MHz (110 baud RTTY) and 144.390 MHz APRS.
According to a report in the September 13 edition of Maine’s Bangor Daily News, Trappe went down about a mile from the coast and about 5 miles from the nearest road. Trappe had spent 2 years preparing for what he hoped would be an epic journey.
“Hmmm, this doesn’t look like France,” is how Trappe put it on his Facebook page, moments before announcing that he was on the ground.
A real-time track of NGØX on 14.0956 MHz showed Trappe as still airborne at about 7 PM on September 13, although the site does not indicate the time zone. An APRS track — only good within 150 miles or so of land — ends over the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
Yesterday afternoon, with things still going well, Trappe posted this optimistic status report to his Facebook page: “In the quiet sky, above the great Gulf of St. Lawrence, traveling over 50mph — in my little yellow rowboat, at 18,000 feet.”