Tuesday, July 2, 2013

He'll float among the stars forever

On July 2, 1982, Larry Walters made aviation history, or infamy. Walters tied 42 helium-filled weather balloons to his lawn chair and sailed aloft from the back yard of his girlfriend's house in San Pedro, California. His plan was to enjoy a leisurely cruise across the desert, but he went straight up instead. As he lost his breath, he panicked. He tried to shoot out some of the balloons with a pellet gun he'd brought (presumably to take potshots at desert critters, etc.), but dropped the gun after hitting only seven of them. He  then called for help on his CB radio. (At least he went prepared.)

A police copter followed Walters until he flew into some power lines, blacking out a Long Beach neighborhood for a half-hour. He then crashed into a driveway.

Walters broke the world altitude record for clustered balloon flight, but it wasn't official because it was unlicensed. And the FAA fined him $1,500. He did make appearances on the Tonight Show and Letterman.

In 1993, Walters took his own life--with a gun, not by sailing off to eternity.

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