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American crosses English Channel in chair tied to helium balloons

American Jonathan Trappe set the world record for the first successful cluster balloon flight across the English Channel today.

American cluster balloonist Jonathan Trappe holds onto his balloons after landing on farmland in Moeres, France, Friday. Trappe took off from Challock, England, to become the first person to cross the English Channel in a chair attached to helium balloon.

Gareth Fuller-pa/AP

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The challenge of crossing the English Channel has called to intrepid travelers for centuries.

In 1785, a Frenchman and an American were the first to cross the 21-miles wide swath of water (at its narrowest point) by balloon. In 1875, a Brit was the first to swim the channel – in 21 hours.

Today, to the delight of historians and dreamers alike, American Jonathan Trappe set the world record for the first successful cluster balloon flight (think Disney- Pixar’s film Up!) from England to France.

“I believe there is near universal magic in a cluster balloon flight,” Mr. Trappe wrote in Ballooning Magazine, recently.

“In children’s eyes, a cluster balloon launch embodies all the magic that in the world. In adult’s eyes, seeing a cluster stirs a dream that so many of us once had, but has grown quiet ... Didn’t we dream of holding a bunch of balloons close, and taking to the skies?”

Trappe lifted off from Kent Gliding Club in Challock, near Ashford, England, with more than 54 helium-filled balloons attached to his chair at 5 a.m. Thursday. The night before, a team of helpers spent most of the night filling the balloons before the launch.

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