I also saw, on TV the other day, don't remember which show, a guy who takes people on tours with these balloon rides. The guy got to 13K feet and started shooting the balloons. Crazy. I don't like to get on the roof of the house, never mind 13K feet. Of course, they did it without the lawn chairs...In reply to:
For a long time I've heard stories about a man who tied a bunch of balloons to a lawn chair and went soaring into the heavens. I even spent an afternoon searching at the library to see if it was true, but no luck. I gave up, thinking it must be someone's wild imagination. Then the other day a story in the paper made mention of a mad balloonist named Larry Walters. Can you tell me more? -- Roger K., Dallas, Texas
How fleeting is fame. It's been a mere 16 years since Larry Walters made his legendary flight, and already people are starting to think he's a mythical being. Au contraire. Larry, an authentic working-class hero (at the time he was driving a truck), went aloft July 2, 1982, from his girlfriend's backyard in suburban Los Angeles. His craft: an aluminum lawn chair borne by 42 helium-filled weather balloons.
Larry's original idea was that he would fly east to the Mojave desert, but it didn't quite work out that way. As his girlfriend and buddy were feeding out the tether, the line broke and he shot skyward. Eventually he reached 16,000 feet, where the pilots of at least two airliners saw him. Not wanting to cause a fuss, he began putting out calls on his portable CB radio. After a while his feet got cold, so he pulled out a pellet pistol and began shooting out balloons.
The descent was uneventful except for the fact that the balloons wrapped around some power lines at the end, knocking out the electricity in a Long Beach residential neighborhood for about 20 minutes. But Larry and his chair stayed clear--he simply dropped a few feet to the ground, having spent about 90 minutes in the air.
Most people thought the whole thing was pretty funny, and Larry got to appear on Letterman and the Today show. But the FAA was not amused. "We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act, and as soon as we decide which part it is, some type of charge will be filed," a spokesman said.
Sure enough, Walters was charged with reckless operation of an aircraft, failure to stay in communication with the tower, and flying a "civil aircraft for which there is not currently in effect an airworthiness certificate." He wound up paying a $1,500 fine.