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Up, up and away in my beautiful lawn chair

November 3, 2011 - Burton Cole (humor columnist)

The lawn chair balloon guy fascinates me. He took an idea straight from childhood and launched it into reality.

Kent Couch of Bend, Ore., tied 150 helium-filled party balloons to a lawn chair – yeah, a lawn chair – and flew 235 miles from the parking lot of his gas station to a field in Idaho. To land, he simply aimed the BB gun he carried for that purpose. He shot out the balloons one or two at a time.

Two words: Awe. Some.

That flight was in 2008. Now he’s at it again.

Couch flew out of Redmond, Ore., today (in a jet) for Dubai, where he will meet up with a co-pilot for a double-chair stunt. Couch and Iraqi daredevil Fareed Lafta will launch Nov. 15 from Baghdad for a 400-mile overnight flight across the Green Zone during a youth conference.


I remember wanting to tie my sister’s Barbie doll to a helium balloon when I was a kid, but Mom wouldn’t let me. I certainly didn’t want to run the experiment with my G.I. Joe. It might work.

Once, someone gave all four of us kids helium balloons. We took turns clutching all four balloons at once and taking running leaps. We didn’t float.

Then we came up with the idea of buying a whole crop of balloons to tie a lawn chair. Mom and Dad insisted that such things weren’t possible. Maybe they just didn’t want to spend the money on balloons. And the helium tank.

Or perhaps it was the BB gun. I only had a dart gun with suction cup darts. Without the help of passing hawks with sharp beaks, I’d still be flying today if they’d let me take flight. Maybe that’s why on some of those days Mom looked exceptionally frazzled, we’d catch her gazing wistfully at the helium tank catalog we found.

Anyway, fulfilling the childhood dreams of kids everywhere, Couch and Lafta will rig 300 party balloons to two lawn chairs lashed together, and hope to reach an altitude of 25,000 feet. They’ll take air masks.

“Now that Saddam Hussein is gone, and the U.S. is pulling out, it is time Iraq really steps up and begins to dream about putting the country back together,” Couch told The Associated Press today. “I think between having a U.S. citizen and an Iraqi citizen launch together, where we are saying we are fulfilling our dream, it will encourage them to dream, knowing the sky is the limit if they just reach out and try.”

And if there are enough party balloons.


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Lawn Chair Boy Burt and his plan to shoot down balloons.


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