Last weekend, Kent Couch, an Oregon-based gas station owner, lifted into the sky on a lawn chair tethered to 105 helium-filled balloons. With a few snacks, a pellet gun, and a parachute, the chair lifted off and traveled over 193 miles at 13,000 feet before landing nine hours later in eastern Oregon.
“Even at two miles high, Couch said, he could hear cattle lowing and children talking,” according to the AP. “He heard gunshots, which worried him. A black butterfly flew past. He passed through clouds. He said they were fluffy.”
I have a fear of heights, and this is pretty much the ultimate anxiety-inducing situation I could find myself in. Planes don’t bother me, but hot air balloons sure do — even looking at them makes me dizzy. There’s something about standing in a wicker basket tied to some helium-filled fabric with giant torch in the middle that really stresses me. Hanging from some weather balloons in a lawn chair doesn’t sound too much better.
The AP story mentions another lawn chair pilot: Larry Walters, who — in 1982 — rose over 15,000 feet over Los Angeles. Like Couch, Walters used a BB gun to shoot the balloons when he wanted to descend, much to the dismay of a passing pilot. “Walters surprised an airline pilot, who radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair with a gun.” [via]