Bend gas station owner Kent Couch settled down in his lawn chair [garden recliner for UK readers] with some drinks and snacks and a parachute and no seat belt. Attached to the lawn chair were 105 balloons of various colours, each 4 feet around. Bundled together, the balloons rose three stories high.
Couch carried a global positioning system device, a two-way radio, a digital camcorder and a cell phone. He also had instruments to measure his altitude and speed and about four plastic bags holding five gallons of water each to act as a ballast, he was able to turn a spigot, release water and rise. His destination was Idaho.
Almost nine hours later, Couch was short of Idaho. But he was 193 miles from home, in a farmer's field near Union, having crossed much of Oregon at 11,000 feet and higher. Couch, 47, is the latest American to emulate Larry Walters, who in 1982 rose three miles above Los Angeles in a lawn chair lifted by balloons. [Walters surprised an airline pilot, who radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair with a gun. The weapon was to shoot balloons and descend. Walters paid a $1,500 penalty for violating air traffic rules.]
This was Couch's second flight so he was well prepared. The balloons had a new configuration, so it was easier to reach up and release a bit of helium instead of simply cutting off a balloon. Couch stopped when he was down to a gallon of water and just eight pounds of ballast. Concerned about the rugged terrain outside La Grande, including Hells Canyon, Couch decided to come back to earth. He was able to pop enough balloons to set the craft down, although he suffered rope burns; and once he was down, he jumped out, and the wind grabbed his gear, chair and remaining balloons, sweeping all aloft.
Susan Couch, Kent's wife, said she's thinking about saying no to another trip but added, 'This way, at least he's fulfilled his dream.'
Be prepared, this is tough to watch, and it illustrates the dangers of attending outdoor events such as air shows.
Air Show Disaster - Amazing photo shows great detail.
The pilot at low level had no control over his aircraft. It narrowly misses a crowd gathered for the air show and slams into four buildings.
Will can only imagine the horror of the occupants inside those buildings! Guy wonders if this is a test episode of Dr Who and the Daleks.
Footnote: Balloon item kindly spotted by Alicia Moss.
Pictures that amuse Will and Guy - Lawn Chair Man strange but true
Here is a fantastic story of 'Lawn Chair Man', some say he is an urban myth, however Will and Guy believe this is a true story.
Back in 1982, Larry Walters achieved fame by piloting a lawn chair attached to helium balloons 16,000 feet above Long Beach. Incidentally, his Lawn chair was christened ' Inspiration I'.
What happened was Larry joined 42 weather grade balloons to an aluminium lawn chair. He then filled the balloons by pumping in helium. Two assistants then launched his chair by untying the Guy ropes. Larry prepared for his flight by packing a bottle of soda, a parachute and a portable CB radio to alert air traffic to his presence. He took a camera but later admitted, that he was so paralysed by the view I didn't take any pictures.
As a truck driver, Larry had no pilot or balloon training, so it was all a big adventure when the chair soared three miles high to 16,000 feet. Unfortunately, or on reflection, fortunately he was in an air traffic lane and at least two airline pilots spotted him and contacted the Federal Aviation Administration.
Once the shock and the novelty wore off, Larry started to get cold. Fortunately he had a plan, this was to burst the balloons with his trusty pellet gun and thus descend gracefully back to earth. Unfortunately he had no control on the decent and the balloons draped over power lines, blacking out a Long Beach neighbourhood.
The adventure cost Larry Walters a $1,500 fine from the FAA. However he earned the top
prize from the Bonehead Club of Dallas. Larry also claimed the altitude record for gas-filled clustered balloons. In due course Larry was invited to appear on 'The Tonight Show' and was flown to New York to be on ' Late Night With David Letterman, 'which he later described as ' the most fun I've ever had.' 'I didn't think that by fulfilling my dream that I would create such a stir, 'he later told The Times, 'and make people laugh.' Larry gave up his truck-driving job and went on the lecture circuit, remaining in demand at motivational seminars. But he said he never made much money from his innovative flight and was glad to keep his simple lifestyle. He gave his the aluminium lawn chair to children after he landed, but he later regretting giving away his pride and joy.
The key to Larry's suicide in 1993 may have been his Army service in Vietnam, Walters never married and had no children. He is survived by his mother and two sisters.
Footnote There have been numerous urban myths surrounding 'Lawn Chair Man'. But the above account is based on his Obituary in 1993.