Sunday, July 15, 2007

It's a bird, it'a a plane, it's... a lawn chair?!

ballonsThink of stories about spectacular balloon flights and you probably think of Steve Fossett. Think again, and meet Kent Couch, a 47 year old gas station owner from Oregon. Last weekend he 'flew' a distance of 193 miles in nine hours in his lawn chair, which was attached to 105 helium-filled balloons.

I'm not making this up!

According to a story about the incredible flying lawn chair on CNN:
With instruments to measure his altitude and speed, a global positioning system device in his pocket, and about four plastic bags holding five gallons of water each to act as ballast -- he could turn a spigot, release water and rise -- Couch headed into the Oregon sky.

Nearly nine hours later, the 47-year-old gas station owner came back to earth in a farmer's field near Union, short of Idaho but about 193 miles from home.
This was Couch's second flying lawn chair adventure. Last September he made a six-hour flight. That time he used a BB gun to pop the balloons to control his ascent -- but ended up having to parachute to the ground. This time he tried a configuration that allowed him to release some helium from the balloons without resorting to shooting them!
Couch decided to stop 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, he decided it was time to land.

He popped enough balloons to set the craft down, although he suffered rope burns. But after he jumped out, the wind grabbed his chair, with his video recorder, and the remaining balloons and swept them away. He's hoping to get them back some day.
We do hope he gets the video recorder back. Meanwhile there is some photographic documentation of the flight: Brandon Wilcox, owner of Professional Air at the Bend airport, flew a plane nearby while Couch traveled and took photos of the flying lawn chair.

File this post under "aircraft: odd."

[Photo Source]