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They will see us waving from such great heights 'come down now,' they'll say...
July 10, 2007 11:22 AM   Subscribe

You wake up, walk out into the early morning air, kiss your wife goodbye, pet the Chihuahua, and sink into your lawn chair for another breathtaking flight. On Saturday Kent Couch set off to recreate, for the second time, the famous flight of Larry Walters, balloon-lawn-chair-aviator and Darwin Award Honorable Mention. Kent flew some 193 miles using 105 helium balloons, and unlike some previous fliers, his event was not only successful, it was photographed by a chase plane.
posted by Muddler (27 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's an incredible and frightening feat. I hope he doesn't want to recreate the whole Larry Walters story. Very sad ending to that one.
posted by inconsequentialist at 11:29 AM on July 10, 2007


Larry Walters committed suicide later. Seems like the Darwin Awards are cruel and crude enough to have given him some bonus points for that.

This is so far from anything I would do it's really incomprehensible. I don't even like living in a raised ranch, let alone sitting in a rickety lawnchair at 11,000 feet.

(Why did the chase plane only get one shot?)
posted by DU at 11:31 AM on July 10, 2007


The Larry Walters story does make me sad every time I think of it. Only recently have I started to wonder - what is that emotional response preventing me from thinking? He shot himself out in the middle of the woods as I recall - certainly not the hardest place to conceal something more...dire.

Which invites the Real Question: why did They want him dead? WHAT DID HE SEE UP THERE THAT THEY WANT HIDDEN?
posted by freebird at 11:41 AM on July 10, 2007


I believe that the "some previous fliers" link refers to one of MetaFilter's own.
posted by found missing at 11:46 AM on July 10, 2007


I'm guessing that whoever was in the chase plane (along with the lawnchair jockey) are trolling for someone to pay up for the footage (and possibly the movie rights).
posted by spock at 11:47 AM on July 10, 2007


why did They want him dead? WHAT DID HE SEE UP THERE THAT THEY WANT HIDDEN?

This is what happens when you fuck with the people at Big Helium.
posted by bondcliff at 11:52 AM on July 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


In my youth I'd have considered doing this. The key thing is the parachute; because the idea of being 3 miles up in a rickety lawn-chair is terrifying, but with a parachute it's kinda like a slow ascent for skydiving, which I've always wanted to try.

Now I've more or less lost that urge to thrill-seek. The biggest adventure I need is having the cat and the dog on the couch at the same time.

Death defying, I tell you.
posted by quin at 11:53 AM on July 10, 2007


This was fairly well thought out, but they should have attached a GPS-trackable cell phone to the lawn chair so it could be found in the event that it and its rider were separated (as happened along with the video camera he recorded the flight with from the air. It sounds like a BLAST. He should be able to at least get bookings on Leno, O'Brien, Letterman (ect.) out of the deal.
posted by spock at 11:54 AM on July 10, 2007


He should have used a couch. A Levitra couch.

I would never do something like this. Imagine landing in some power lines.
posted by IronLizard at 11:57 AM on July 10, 2007


"I believe that the "some previous fliers" link refers to one of MetaFilter's own."

Really?? Adam Savage?!?! SERIOUSLY??????
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:08 PM on July 10, 2007


Do these guys practice somehow or do they just jump in and go? I think I'd want to start with a tethered version: go out to the salt flats roped to a chase car, or out on open water dragging a boat behind me, and work out the bugs before I went sailing off to Idaho.
posted by pracowity at 12:08 PM on July 10, 2007


I've never been so proud to be from Bend.
posted by Heminator at 12:41 PM on July 10, 2007


What altitude did Couch reach? I didn't see it in the article.
posted by jb at 12:54 PM on July 10, 2007


If Metafilter, the Mod(s) and/or my fellow Mefites help pay for the helium, balloons and parachute I'd be happy to fly as far as I can for as long as I can -- proudly featuring the Metafilter logo as prominently as y'all want. (The lawn chair, ballast and beer I can supply myself.) For that matter if y'all want to defray my expenses I could walk, bicycle or hitchhike wherever y'all want to send me along whichever route you choose (within reason).

It might even get Metafilter in the New york Times again!
posted by davy at 1:01 PM on July 10, 2007


Boo to CNN for not reporting how legitimate the flight was. Did he have a ballooning license? Was there FAA flight following? Why is him petting his chihuahua a more important factoid?

The legality and safety of the flight is the whole damn reason why Mr. Larry Walters got all that press attention 25 years ago.
posted by stam_broker at 1:14 PM on July 10, 2007


Yes that final link is Adam Savage of Mythbusters and our very own MeFi
posted by A189Nut at 1:19 PM on July 10, 2007


As a kid, I would've loved doing something like this. I was about 10 or 11 years old and wondering how I could make my own helium balloon (this was in the days when there weren't Dollar Stores on every corner with helium tanks and balloons for sale). I asked my dad how to make helium, and Dad in his infinite wisdom (actually his nose was buried in the Sunday newspaper) said without looking up, "Hydrogen gas is lighter than helium, and you can make hydrogen gas pretty easily; all you need is aluminum and lye acid." "Where do you get lye acid?" I asked. "Most toilet bowl cleaners have it," he mumbled and continued persuing the paper.

My friend and I got a roll of Reynolds Wrap and a bottle of Sno-Bowl out of her mom's bathroom cabinet and attempted to make hydrogen gas. (We were going to fill a couple of plastic garbage bags to use as balloons.) Nothing happened except we got a bit woozy after breathing in toilet bowl cleaner for half an hour. Mom came home and had a fit that we were "playing with poison" and then proceeded to give Dad heck ("Something like this always happens when he's supposed to be watching you kids!!")
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:30 PM on July 10, 2007


woah, I remember reading this story in the Honorable Mentions of the Darwin awards, and even retold it, but never knew if it was really true, thanks.

Such a cool feat!
posted by milestogo at 1:51 PM on July 10, 2007


No one knew exactly what was proved, however. Perhaps it was that latex can burst under pressure, a concept already well known in San Francisco.

I love the Chronicle.
posted by noble_rot at 2:07 PM on July 10, 2007


Wow...according to this Bend article, he was flying at 12,000 feet most of the time. No mention of whether he carried oxygen.
posted by jaimev at 4:11 PM on July 10, 2007


He should have used a couch. A Levitra couch.

'Cause it would help him get it up.
posted by Tube at 5:08 PM on July 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow...according to this Bend article, he was flying at 12,000 feet most of the time. No mention of whether he carried oxygen.

12,000 feet ain't that high. People climb Mt. Whitney without oxygen all the time, and this guy would have only been half a mile below the summit.

He shot himself out in the middle of the woods as I recall - certainly not the hardest place to conceal something more...dire.

Which invites the Real Question: why did They want him dead? WHAT DID HE SEE UP THERE THAT THEY WANT HIDDEN?


He obviously found the government's porn stash.
posted by LionIndex at 5:24 PM on July 10, 2007




The legality and safety of the flight is the whole damn reason why Mr. Larry Walters got all that press attention 25 years ago.

Plus the awesome. I don't think my childhood self had ever been quite so impressed by anything or anyone.
posted by fshgrl at 5:54 PM on July 10, 2007


I knew the Larry Walters story for years, but I don't recall knowing he'd committed suicide until now. Maybe I did and blocked it out.

Now I'm bummed. What a downer.

"Larry Walters committed suicide later. Seems like the Darwin Awards are cruel..."

After his girl left him. After the FAA charged him needless fines. After he failed at being a public speaker. After the false fame of the media which led to the masses laughing at him and leaving him. After the probable realization that being on Letterman was about as good as it was going to get. There was a time in my life when I woulda been happy to have his level of pseudo-celebrity. Not anymore of course. Back when I was young and stupid(er). Now, if David Letterman called, wanting me to do a stupid human trick, I'd run and hide in the nearest basement.

This guy had perhaps done more with his life than some, but not as much as others, and about as much as he was gonna do with his life. The years ahead of him may have appeared more bleak than the ones he'd just trod, and he probably had a hearty 'meh' in response to those...

Larry shot himself in the heart according to multiple reports, which is telling. If one doesn't want to feel it, they aim for the brain, which presumably kills you instantly. Shooting himself in the heart indicates he was hurting, or that he wanted to experience the pain. ...Or both. It surely is a more romantic yet less efficient way to die.

I guess wanting fame and having it are two different things. He apparently had all the bad press of a Paris Hilton or a Britney Spears without getting any of the perks like being in demand or having lots of money.

People calling him stupid, just for following his bliss.

"I could have told you, Vincent
this world was never meant for one
as beautiful as you."

- Starry Night, Don McLean
posted by ZachsMind at 6:58 PM on July 10, 2007


"Walters had surprised an airline pilot, who radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair."

Quite possibly the best MeFi quote this side of UFO bashing. Thanks for the links!

Kudos to Mr. Couch for a multi-colored balloon array.
posted by msjen at 9:12 PM on July 10, 2007


"Couch said he could hear cattle and children and even passed through clouds."

For moments it must have been like a dream.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:49 AM on July 11, 2007


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