Kent Couch: Lawn Chair Balloonist Takes Off With Co-Pilot Fareed Lafta
Bend, OR — Kent Couch, along with his co-pilot Iraqi Fareed Lafta, took off from a Shell gas station in Bend, Oregon on Saturday morning, to the cheers of several hundred supporters–but they weren’t flying in a helicopter, airplane, or even a hot air balloon.
Couch and his Iraqi adventurer have taken to the sky while sitting in a pair of lawn chairs suspended from helium-filled party balloons, reports Yahoo News. Before they took off, volunteers helped the pair fill 350 5-foot-diameter balloons with helium and tied them to the Oregon man’s tandem lawn chair rig.
The Huffington Post notes that Saturday’s flight is just a warm up for the pair’s plans to fly a tandem lawn chair balloon rig in Baghdad in the future.
For now, however, the two hope to fly through the night across Idaho before they touch down Sunday morning somewhere in southwestern Montana, though winds were carrying them southeast shortly after their departure at 10:20 a.m. PDT.
Kent Couch has always wanted to “float like a cloud” since he was young, according to USA Today, who says he was inspired by the 1982 lawn chair flight of truck driver Larry Walters, who gained urban myth immortality after flying over Los Angeles.
Couch’s first attempt to recreate the lawn chair flight was in 2006, but he only got 99 miles before the balloons began popping, forcing him to bail out. He also flew 193 miles in 2007 before he ran low on helium, landing in the sagebrush of Eastern Oregon, reports USA Today.
In 2008, his flight went much more smoothly, as he lifted off on July 5th, floating at 35 mph across the desert of Eastern Oregon, reaching his goal of crossing into Idaho. He then used a BB rifle to shoot enough balloons that he came back to earth near Cambridge, Idaho.
This time, armed with co-pilot Fareed Lafta, Kent Couch hopes to make the Guinness Book of World Records. None of his flights have been certified by them yet, and the current record is held by Jonathan Trapp, who spent 13 hours, 36 minutes, 57 seconds floating over North Carolina in April of 2010.
Check out news footage of Kent Couch’s 2008 lawn chair balloon flight here: