BEND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon gas station owner is preparing to fly aboard a pair of lawn chairs suspended from helium-filled party balloons across Oregon and Idaho and into Montana with an Iraqi adventurer by his side.
Kent Couch plans to lift off from his Shell station in Bend, Ore., Saturday morning with Fareed Lafta, who contacted Couch after reading of his earlier exploits.
Volunteers will fill 350 5-foot-diameter balloons with helium and tie them to Couch's homemade tandem lawn chair rig. It includes 800 pounds of ballast — red Kool-Aid in 40-gallon barrels. Besides a GPS, satellite phone, and parachutes, they will carry a Red Ryder BB rifle to shoot out enough balloons to come to earth when the time is right.
The two men hope to fly through the night across Idaho and touch down Sunday morning somewhere in southwestern Montana.
It is a warm-up for plans to fly a tandem lawn chair balloon rig in Baghdad sometime in the future.
Couch has wanted to float like a cloud since he was a child, and was inspired by a TV show about the 1982 lawn chair flight over Los Angeles by truck driver Larry Walters, who gained urban myth immortality.
Couch's first time up was in 2006, when he got only 99 miles before the balloons started popping and he had to bail out.
In 2007, he flew 193 miles before running low on helium and landing in the sagebrush of Eastern Oregon.
In 2008, things went much more smoothly. After lifting off at dawn July 5 with the help of scores of volunteers, he floated at 35 mph across the high desert, reaching his goal of crossing the Idaho border. That's when he pulled out his trusty BB rifle and shot out enough balloons to come to earth in a pasture outside the tiny farming community of Cambridge, Idaho.
Couch was at it again in 2010, racing another lawn chair balloonist in a flight that went about 70 miles.
This time he hopes to set a world record. None of his flights have been certified by Guinness World Records. The current record listed by Guinness for the longest duration flight by helium balloons is held by Jonathan Trappe for a flight of 13 hours, 36 minutes, 57 seconds over North Carolina in April 2010.