Cluster balloonist Kent Couch has a new partner and a goal to set a new Guinness World Record for longest two-man cluster balloon flight when he sets out from Bend, Ore., for a landing somewhere in Montana. Couch, who has since 2007 made no less than four public cluster balloon flights, will be joined on this adventure by Fareed Lafta. The pair expect to set off from a Stop and Go Mini Mart at about 10 a.m. on July 14 (weather permitting) and fans will be able to follow the trip online. Regardless of the outcome, the pair is already talking about another arguably much more adventurous trip -- in Iraq.
Couch met Lafta through his preparations for a future flight over Baghdad. Lafta is a pilot and diplomat from Iraq, currently living in Dubai. He has more than 1,000 skydives under his belt. The men are still in the planning stages for the Baghdad flight, which includes the acquisition of funding. The planned Oregon-to-Montana flight will use about 350 specially made helium-filled balloons, expected to carry the two men through the night. Weather and other factors will determine the trip's specific destination. For their Iraq flight, "other factors" may prove more formidable and offer a more decisive impact on the flight. Couch's previous adventures led to a world record for longest cluster balloon flight, which he set at 235 miles flying under 250 balloons back in 2008.