January 27, 2013

Q&A with balloon adventurer Jonathan Trappe

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Reporter Tom Bell interviewed Jonathan Trappe via email because Trappe is currently in the Philippines. Based on a compilation of several emails, here is a Q & A of the interview:

Related headlines

TO CONTACT Jonathan Trappe, visit his website, www.clusterballons.com

WATCH A VIDEO of Trappe's test of the Portland Pudgy in Casco Bay: youtu.be/e6ZRX7pLUC0

BELL: Where are you now?

TRAPPE:  I am spending the off-months in the Philippines, in sunny Manila. My firm has a number of offices here, and I’m able to work with my colleagues on-site for a period before returning to Maine for the flight.

BELL: How old are you? Have you turned 39 yet? You mentioned your firm. How do I describe you professionally?

TRAPPE: I am 39 and I am a 'Technical Projects Manager’ at Accenture. For the most part, I deliver large-scale information systems for enterprise clients. I work with projects that have lots of moving parts, and it is actually the skills developed at the firm that have allowed me to tackle these personal projects – even though the topics are so different.

Lighter-than-air flight is rather different than moving an enterprise client from one data center to another, but I use the same project-tracking spreadsheet!

BELL: Is the flight scheduled for this summer? What months do the favorable meteorological conditions occur?

TRAPPE:  I want to be on site in New England by May, preparing the airfield and equipment through May and June.  The flight window opens July 1 and runs for three months: July, August, and September. During that time, I will work closely with the team meteorologists as we look for the right weather system: a beautiful high-pressure ridge. For those weeks or months when the weather window is open, I want to have everything set up on the airfield and ready to go such that I can stare at the sea, stare at the sky, and be prepared to go just when the right weather system arrives that can carry me across the big blue deep.

BELL: Have you thought about where in Maine you could launch from? I imagine you need a very large field. Are you looking at Washington County, the easternmost county?

TRAPPE: The farther north I go, the better chance I have of getting my entry point into a good weather system. To that end, ideal locations are in the vicinity of Presque Isle or Caribou. We also need a team of 50+ volunteers to inflate balloons and help stand the aircraft when the day of the flight comes, so I can’t be in too rural of an area; I need to be close enough to an interested and supportive community so we can draw on that group to develop the inflation team we need to launch the expedition and go into the sky.

There have been storied balloonists, truly great pilots, that have made trans-Atlantic balloon flights. In the history of manned ballooning, there have been exactly two gas balloon flights that made it from the USA across the Atlantic. One launched in 1978 from Presque Isle: Double Eagle II – the first successful trans-Atlantic balloon flight. The ballooning museum in Albuquerque is named after those pilots: Anderson & Abruzzo (with Newman.)

(Regarding Col. Joe Kittinger, who made the first solo flight across the Atlantic, launching from Caribou in 1984) You may know of the pilot; he’s been in the news a lot lately as part of the Red Bull Stratos space dive program: Col. Joe Kittinger. He held the skydive record for 50 years, and worked with Red Bull to help them get Felix Baumgartner up to the point where that record could be broken. Col. Kittinger is the last person to make this flight in a gas balloon, and the only person to do it solo.

(Continued on page 2)

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