Lawn Chair Balloonist: Idaho Or Bust


Kent Couch, owner of the Stop and Go Mini-Mart in Bend, Ore., on Saturday strapped himself into lawn chair with 105 balloons, four-foot-round multi-colored balloons, hoping to fly all the way to Idaho. His onboard equipment included an altimeter, handheld GPS, two-way radio, camcorder and cellphone. Couch’s flying lawn chair also sported four gallon-size plastic bags filled with water for ballast. Couch came short of his goal, landing south of La Grande, Ore., after a nearly nine-hour trip in the homemade balloon, which flew at about 13,000 feet. What possessed him to do the flight? “When you’re a little kid and you’re holding a helium balloon, it has to cross your mind,” he told the Bend Bulletin. “When you’re laying in the grass on a summer day, and you see the clouds, you wish you could jump on them. This is as close as you can come to jumping on them. It’s just like that.” According to the newspaper, this was Couch’s second lawn chair balloon flight. In September, he reached 15,000 feet on a six-hour trip, but he used a BB gun to pop the balloons and went into a rapid descent. Fortunately, he parachuted to safety. This time Couch popped just enough balloons to allow for a more controlled descent, but after he set foot back on the ground his chariot — lawn chair, gear and balloons alike — were swept into the air by the wind. He said he’s contemplating a third lawn-chair flight, though only if his wife will allow it. (Photo: Eric Schilling)