Kent Couch's Helium Balloon Lawn Chair Success

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Kent Couch, 48, Saturday lifted off from a pasture in Bend, Ore., suspended in a green lawn chair beneath a collection of more than 150 giant helium-filled party balloons, and covered about 235 miles in about nine hours, landing in Cambridge, Idaho. Couch controlled his ascent and descent with a Red Ryder BB gun and ballast (in this case, 15-gallon barrels of cherry Kool Aid). Couch also carried two GPS units -- one for himself and one for the chair, just in case it got away again (last year, it blew away on landing). He also had with him a blowgun and steel darts ... and boiled eggs, jerky and chocolate. The balloons give about four pounds of lift, each. The chair and supporting structure weighs about 400 pounds, and one Couch plus parachute weigh in at about 200. The flight cost about $6,000 for aircraft and fuel, or in this case, the rig itself and the helium, a cost that was defrayed by "corporate sponsors," according to The Associated Press. "If I had the time and money and people, I'd do this every weekend," said Couch. "Things just look different from up there. You're moving so slowly. The best thing is the peace and serenity." His wife Susan added, "It's never been a dull moment since I married him." The flight was Couch's third.

In 2006, Couch had to parachute from his rig when overzealous balloon popping led to a too-rapid rate of descent. Last year, his flight took him 193 miles to northeastern Oregon, but his real goal remained a trip out of state. His successful trip this year was aided also by dozens of volunteers who wore fluorescent green T-shirts that read "Dream Big." It's often a dangerous mission. In this case, mission accomplished.