Flying on a chair and a prayer


Summary

With instruments to measure his altitude and speed, a global positioning system device in his pocket, and about four plastic bags holding 19 litres of water each to act as ballast – he could turn a spigot, release water and rise – Kent Couch headed into the Oregon sky.

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Nearly nine hours later, the 47-year-old came back to earth in a farmer's field, short of his destination of Idaho but about 300km from home.

Childhood dream fulfilled

"When you're a little kid and you're holding a helium balloon, it has to cross your mind," Mr Couch told the Bend Bulletin newspaper.

"When you're laying in the grass on a summer day, and you see the clouds, you wish you could jump on them," he says.

"This is as close as you can come to jumping on them. It's just like that."

Mr Couch is the latest American to emulate Larry Walters, who in 1982 rose almost 5km above Los Angeles in a similar setup.

A surprised airline pilot radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair.

‘Violating air traffic rules’

Mr Walters paid a $US1,500 ($A1,746) penalty for violating air traffic rules.

Last weekend's trip was Mr Couch's second flight.

In September, he got off the ground for six hours.

Like Mr Walters, he used a pellet gun to pop the balloons, but he went into a rapid descent and eventually parachuted to safety.

This time, he was better prepared.

The balloons had a new configuration, so it was easier to reach up and release a bit of helium instead of cutting off a balloon.

‘Couch definitely flew’

Brandon Wilcox, owner of Professional Air, which charters and maintains planes, said Mr Couch definitely flew.

Mr Wilcox said he flew a plane nearby and took photos while Mr Couch travelled.

Whether Mr Couch will take a third trip is up to his wife, and she said she is thinking about saying no.

But she said she was willing to go along with last weekend's trip.

"I know he'd be thinking about it more and more, it would always be on his mind," she says.

"This way, at least he's fulfilled his dream."


With instruments to measure his altitude and speed, a global positioning system device in his pocket, and about four plastic bags holding 19 litres of water each to act as ballast – he could turn a spigot, release water and rise – Kent Couch headed into the Oregon sky.

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Nearly nine hours later, the 47-year-old came back to earth in a farmer's field, short of his destination of Idaho but about 300km from home.

Childhood dream fulfilled

"When you're a little kid and you're holding a helium balloon, it has to cross your mind," Mr Couch told the Bend Bulletin newspaper.

"When you're laying in the grass on a summer day, and you see the clouds, you wish you could jump on them," he says.

"This is as close as you can come to jumping on them. It's just like that."

Mr Couch is the latest American to emulate Larry Walters, who in 1982 rose almost 5km above Los Angeles in a similar setup.

A surprised airline pilot radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair.

‘Violating air traffic rules’

Mr Walters paid a $US1,500 ($A1,746) penalty for violating air traffic rules.

Last weekend's trip was Mr Couch's second flight.

In September, he got off the ground for six hours.

Like Mr Walters, he used a pellet gun to pop the balloons, but he went into a rapid descent and eventually parachuted to safety.

This time, he was better prepared.

The balloons had a new configuration, so it was easier to reach up and release a bit of helium instead of cutting off a balloon.

‘Couch definitely flew’

Brandon Wilcox, owner of Professional Air, which charters and maintains planes, said Mr Couch definitely flew.

Mr Wilcox said he flew a plane nearby and took photos while Mr Couch travelled.

Whether Mr Couch will take a third trip is up to his wife, and she said she is thinking about saying no.

But she said she was willing to go along with last weekend's trip.

"I know he'd be thinking about it more and more, it would always be on his mind," she says.

"This way, at least he's fulfilled his dream."