Several months ago, Jonathan Trappe flew across the English Channel suspended by a cluster of helium balloons. Yet Trappe is just the latest in a long line of adventurers enamored with cluster ballooning. At Air & Space Magazine, Mark Karpel, who volunteered on Trappe's groundcrew, tells the stories of 10 cluster balloonists starting with aeornautical engineer Jean Piccard who took off in 1937. (Star Trek: TNG's Jean-Luc Picard is his namesake.) Seen below is another cluster ballooning pioneer, Garrett Cashman, during a 1955 flight that approached 20,000 feet, causing Cashman to hallucinate. From Air & Space:
On September 9, 1954, residents of Albany, New York, looked up to see 60 balloons floating into the sky with a figure beneath. It was Garrett Cashman, a part-time hypnotist and dance teacher, and according to Lawrence Gooley, an authority on the Adirondack region, Cashman was seated on a piece of plywood that dangled from two clusters of balloons; between the clusters, a parachute was slung. Cashman had brought along an anchor, sand for ballast, and a meatloaf sandwich. He rose to over 6,000 feet, floated for about 20 miles, and, immediately upon landing, was arrested for flying without a license and operating an unlicensed aircraft. He was jailed and later fined $50 by the Civil Aeronautics Administration.
He later got both licenses and launched a career flying balloon clusters at airshows and auto races and as an advertising gimmick. After one rough landing in which he sprained his ankle, Cashman told reporters he “might quit the business,” adding, “I like to dance too well.”
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