Taken Aloft By Helium Party Balloons, Oregon Man Completes
Twenty six years after
Larry “Lawn Chair Larry” Walters took to the skies over
Southern California in a lawn chair attached to 45 helium-filled
weather balloons, Oregon native Kent Couch did the same in a
one-way attempt to journey 300-miles from Oregon to Idaho
Couch, 48, piloted his lawn chair over 235 miles in a nine hour
journey from Bend, OR to Cambridge, ID, a small farming community.
Held aloft by 150 latex party balloons, Couch touched down safely
in a pasture just short of his 300-mile goal, but further than
After touchdown, Couch was soon greeted by dozens of people who
gave him drinks of water, local plumber Mark Hetz said.
"My wife works at the City Market," Hetz said. "She called and
said, 'The balloon guy in the lawn chair just flew by the market,
and if you look out the door you can see him.”
"We go outside to look, and lo and behold, there he is. He's
flying by probably 100 to 200 feet off the ground.
"Not much happens in Cambridge," said resident Sandi Barton,
adding that about half the town turned out to greet the
Couch made two flights in the last three years falling short of
his goal and hoped the third would be his most successful yet.
"The first time, nobody wanted to be involved at all," Couch
told The Associated Press. "They were thinking I was a lunatic, I
mean a balloon-atic. My friends shunned me. But this time it's
Couch’s first ascent occurred in 2006, where he floated
for six hours before shooting out a few balloons with his pellet
gun to descend. He apparently shot out too many balloons and was
forced to use his parachute to land while his lawn chair drifted
away, never to be seen again.
He flew 193 miles in 2007 before running low on helium and
landing in a patch of sagebrush. Though a gust of wind blew away
the chair, it was recovered in May by a ranchers who found it while
checking the fence line on their eastern Oregon property.
In this, his third
flight, he had the support of a corporate sponsor, a team of
volunteers and the blessing of his wife Susan. Couch said he was
much better equipped this time around. He figures the rig costs
about $6,000, mostly for helium.
The balloons were tied to a framework attached to a reclining
lawn chair with no seat belt. He used 15-gallon barrels filled with
cherry-flavored Kool-Aid as water ballast, which were emptied as
needed to gain altitude.
Describing his flight strategy before departure, Couch said "If
I get up around 15,000 feet, I'll pop a couple balloons. If I get
too low, I'll release some water. All the way you go it's like a
seesaw, up and down, up and down. You can't feel yourself going up
and down. You have to look at the altimeter."
To fly at higher altitudes, Couch had a finger clip monitoring
the oxygen level in his blood and a tank of oxygen ready just in
case. His location was monitored on his Web site using a GPS
tracking device attached to his chair and another in his
Inspired by the 1982 lawn-chair flight over Los Angeles by
truck driver Larry Walters, couch said cluster ballooning is
inherently risky, but the ride is generally carefree, he said.
"I don't mind them thinking I'm nuts," Couch said. "I've done my
research and I feel plenty confident."
"When you're up there, there's not much stress," he said.
"There's a little stress on the way down. A few navigational issues
you've got to deal with. But there's nothing, really, I can do but
In a sad coincidence, Couch’s departure occurred the same
day as the body of another cluster balloonist from Brazil was found
in the Atlantic Ocean.
As reported by ANN, Brazilian priest Reverend
Adelir Antonio di Carli disappeared April 20, during an attempt to
set a new Guinness World Record for human flight using party
balloons. He went missing eight hours after taking off from