High-flying cluster ballonists

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:
 Images The Drifters Gall 3 Aug2010 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.”

"The Drifters"


  1. I’ve always wanted to do this and ever since I saw the headline for this post, I’ve had “Upular” by Faggotron in my head.

    Degaussing a dog is much easier – merely wrap a strong magnet in bacon.

  2. Didn’t he also bring a rifle along with him to shoot the balloons when he wanted to come back to earth? Or is this different than the balloon man I remember?

  3. a part-time hypnotist and dance teacher, and . . . an authority on the Adirondack region,

    I have wasted my life.

  4. ’round my house growing up we’d make these, but instead of callin’ em balloons – pop would call em fuchs. I spent many a weekend chasing pop and his cluster of fuchs across the county.

    One time the cops came right when pops was inflating all the fuchs & lashing the netting together. It was really a mess.

    “Where’s your dad, son?”

    “He’s over there, right up to his chin in a huge cluster fuch.”

  5. Maybe I’m wrong, but wouldn’t the real person who came first be the namesake of the later, fictional, person?

    Similarly, it bugs me when someone says that a great-grandson of say, Henry Ford, is Henry’s ancestor, when they mean to say descendant. But it might work differently for namesakes, it just seems off to me.

    1. Yes, you are wrong.


      Main Entry: name·sake
      Pronunciation: \-ˌsāk\
      Function: noun
      Etymology: probably from name’s sake
      Date: 1646

      : one that has the same name as another; especially : one who is named after another or for whom another is named

      1. Actually, David, your posted definition highlights the fact that he, and you, are both right.

  6. I am Garrett Cashman’s nephew. I have his plywood seat, wooden bicycle rim used to attach balloon net to seat, and his scrap book. I am seeking suggestions as to where they can be protected and enjoyed by the ballooning community.

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