Man Ties Balloons To Lawn Chair, You Won’t Believe What Happens

This had been his dream for so long. Today
was the day! He had spent weeks prepping and mapping out a route, and now bunches of helium
filled weather balloons floated overhead, tugging on the lawn chair. Larry strapped
on his parachute, and sat down. His ground crew watched, recording with a video camera.
This was it. He cut the first rope, and slowly rose to hover over the roof of the house.
Perfect! Liftoff was progressing exactly like how he’d planned. Suddenly a strong gust
of wind whipped past, rocking Larry and snapping the second line tethering the lawn chair to
the ground. Whoops! Larry shot up into the sky like he was being launched out of cannon,
uh oh, this wasn’t part of the plan… Larry Walters had always dreamed of flying.
At 13, he went to an army navy surplus store and saw weather balloons on display. This
inspired his idea of filling a bunch of weather balloons with helium, attaching them to a
chair and floating off into the sky. Unable to afford flight lessons, teenage Larry spent
a lot of time hanging out at the local airport doing odd jobs. As a young man, Larry joined
the Air Force planning to become a pilot, but was rejected due to his poor eyesight. In the spring of 1982, 33 year old Larry was
living in Los Angeles, California and working as a truck driver for a television commercial
production company. He had never forgotten his weather balloon idea from some 20 years
earlier. Now was the time to do it, he decided. Larry came up with a plan. He would launch
from his girlfriend Carol Van Deusen’s house in San Pedro, rise to an altitude of around
6,000-7,000 feet, drift northeast, heading over the San Gabriel Mountains and eventually
land in the Mojave desert about 120 miles (193 km) away. Larry and Carol spent over $4,000 to purchase
45 weather balloons, 55 helium tanks, a lawn chair, a cb radio set and a bb pellet gun.
To purchase the unusually large number of balloons and helium cylinders, Larry falsified
documents from his employer, saying the balloons were for a television commercial. During the planning stage, several weeks before
his fateful trip, Larry’s pal Ron Richland talked him into taking a skydiving class.
After the class, Larry ended up buying a parachute. Though Carol and Ron tried to talk Larry out
of what they felt was a dangerous, wacky plan many times, they agreed to be his flight crew.
The night before his planned flight was spent inflating 42 8 foot (2.4 m) weather balloons
one by one. Around midnight, curious police noticed the huge clusters of balloons hovering
over the house and dropped by to inquire what was happening. Once again, Larry claimed they
were preparing to shoot a commercial. Friday July 2, 1982, dawns hot, sunny and
clear; perfect for a balloon ride. Larry dubs his trusty lawn chair ‘Inspiration I’.
The weather balloons are tethered to the lawn chair with nylon cables in six tiers rising
almost 180 feet (154 m) high. Over 20 1-gallon (3.79 liter) jugs of water are attached to
either side of the lawnchair to serve as ballast. There is no seat belt, but the chair is positioned
so Larry sits in it leaning back at an angle, making it hard to tip forward and fall out.
The whole contraption is tethered to the ground via guide wires wrapped around Larry’s jeep. On board, Larry plans to carry several items
to aid his trip including an altimeter, a compass, a 35 mm camera, a bb gun, a map and
a small emergency kit. He even has some jerky, sandwiches and a two liter bottle of Coke
for snacks. Just before take off, Larry ends up delaying
his flight by about 45 minutes so a friend can go buy him a lifejacket, just in case
he drifts near the ocean. Around 10:30 am, after putting on his parachute and getting
comfortable in the chair, Larry cuts the first rope. He rises, hovering over the roof of
Carol’s house. Perfect. The first part of his plan is to float 100 feet over the house
for half an hour while his ground crew notifies the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA
and local airports and then drift off towards the mountains. But a sudden rush of wind prematurely snaps
the second tether, jolting Larry and sending the lawnchair skyrocketing upwards so fast,
Larry’s glasses slide off his face. Larry’s ascending somewhere between 800-1,000
feet a minute. He contacts Carol on the CB and tells her that he lost his glasses. Nearly
hysterical, she yells for him to come down since he can’t see. But Larry is prepared
and has brought a second pair of glasses. He let Carols know and also tells her that
he’s headed into a small fog bank. Luckily, he comes through the other side without
issue. As Larry rises, the view is fantastic. In the distance over the houses, streets and
freeways, he can see the famed ship, the Queen Mary at the port. As he continues to soar,
he can see the curve of the California coastline, the Pacific ocean and then eventually Catalina
Island in the distance. He watches a private plane fly past beneath him. He enjoys the
view, but forgets to take pictures, in fact for the duration of his voyage, Larry totally
forgets to use his camera. To put in perspective how quickly Larry is
ascending: in less than a minute, Larry has reached 500 feet (152 m) and officially entered
into federal air space. In less than 2 minutes Larry has risen higher than the 1,250 foot
(381 m) Empire State Building. In about 10 minutes he’s almost at 10,000 feet (3048
m) or ⅓ of the way up Mount Everest. All the while, an agitated Carol talks to
Larry on the CB. She says that they found his dropped glasses and pleads for him to
come down. Larry tries to reassure her, but he’s been dreaming of this day far too long
to give up so easy. Around 15,000 feet (4572 m) Larry starts to worry. How high can he
float?–Later the FAA will tell him that he could have reached 50,000 feet and turned
into a popsicle. A concerned Larry carefully begins shooting balloons with his bb gun. Finally the Inspiration I levels out at around
16, 500 feet (5029 m), just over 3 miles (4.8 km) off the ground, far higher than Larry
originally intended to float. Along with the amazing view, Larry now has
several problems: For humans, altitude sickness typically begins around 8,000 feet (2438 m).
At twice that altitude, Larry is experiencing oxygen levels comparable to a climber on a
high mountain peak. He grows dizzy and his thinking is affected. Furthermore, it’s
really cold. The average temperature at 16,500 feet (5029 m) is five degrees F (-15 C). Yet,
though his extremities are beginning to grow numb with cold, since he’s closer to the
sun with no shade, Larry is also working on a sunburn. However, most dangerously Larry is at an altitude
commercial planes pass through. Even worse, the Inspiration I begins drifting west towards
the ocean and directly into the flight corridor of the nearby Los Angeles International Airport. Larry calls in a Mayday on his cb radio. His
distress call is picked up by the Crest–Radio Emergency Associated Communication
Team [Crest-REACT] in Corona, California. The operator is puzzled and skeptical of Larry’s
claim that he’s floating over 16,000 feet (5029 m) in the sky via weather balloon. Nevertheless,
members of Crest-REACT continue to communicate by cb with Larry for the duration of his flight,
eventually becoming convinced that it isn’t a hoax. Meanwhile, Larry is spotted by pilots of two
different TWA and Delta flights, who radio the LAX tower and FAA. At first the tower
is incredulous, but then they plot a radar fix on Larry and begin tracking him. By this time, Larry has shot out 7 balloons
and is planning to shoot more when a gust of wind pushes the chair sideways. The bb
gun which had been resting on Larry’s lap slips. Larry watches in disbelief as the gun
falls, growing smaller and smaller until it’s completely out of sight. Just like that, Larry
had lost his main method for descending. Luckily, the loss of helium from the popped
balloons is enough to cause Larry to begin to descend. Over about an hour he slowly floats
back to earth. At about two thousand feet, Larry begins to pick up speed and falls more
quickly. To lighten the load, he uses his pen knife to slash his ballast jugs and sends
several gallons of water cascading down. As Larry gets closer to the ground, for the
first time he really gets scared–he’s afraid he’ll land on a power line and get electrocuted
or crash through someone’s roof. He tries to steer the chair towards a wide open space–a
golf course at country club, but can’t change direction. All this time, Larry periodically been in
touch with his ground crew. They call 911 and local police begin tracking Larry. Larry’s
worst fears are realized when Inspiration I crashes into and gets entangled in high
voltage power lines in someone’s yard. Luckily, the plastic cord Larry’s using saves him
from being electrocuted. Larry has to wait, dangling only five feet off the ground while
firemen and utility crews cut the electricity to the lines. This blacks out a Long Beach
neighborhood for twenty minutes. Ultimately Larry’s flight lasts a few hours, takes
him 3 miles (4.8 km) into the sky, but only carries him from San Pedro to Long Beach,
the next city over from his launch site, a distance of around 10 miles (16 km) before
returning him safely to earth. As Larry finally climbs down, he’s swarmed
by excited children from the neighborhood. Everyone’s come out to see what the big
commotion is about. Larry autographs a few pieces of balloon and impulsively gives away
his lawn chair to boy–a move he later regrets when the Smithsonian asks him about donating
his lawn chair. Some years later, the lawn chair is found and in 2014 loaned for an exhibition
to the San Diego Air and Space Museum. Just after landing, Larry’s arrested by
waiting officers of Long Beach Police Department. As he’s placed in a squad car in handcuffs,
a reporter asks him why he has done it. Larry casually says, “A man can’t just sit around.” Eventually the police let Larry go, there’s
nothing they can hold him for. Larry makes the rounds in the media, having struck a chord
with the public. Everyone is eager to interview the man who has fulfilled a crazy dream. Larry
appears on popular late night talk shows “The Tonight Show” where he’s interviewed by
Johnny Carson. He’s also flown to New York to be on “Late Night with David Letterman.” Larry finds out that he has broken the altitude
record for gas-filled clustered balloons, though his distinction is unofficial since
he was unlicensed and unsanctioned. The FAA fines Larry $4,000 for violations under U.S.
Federal Aviation Regulations, including operating an aircraft within an airport traffic area
“without establishing and maintaining two-way communications with the control tower.” Larry
appeals and ultimately the fine is reduced to $1,500. Larry has inspired several copy cats around
the world who have embarked on wild flights using homemade airships of their own. Of his
trip Larry said “It was something I had to do. I had this dream for twenty years,
and if I hadn’t done it, I think I would have ended up in the funny farm.” What’s a dream of yours that you’ve achieved
or hope to achieve? Do any of you have one as while as floating into the sky with balloons?
Let us know in the comments! Now go watch our other video “Plane Crash Leads To Unbelievable
Survival Story”! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share,
and subscribe. See you next time!

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