Allison Loudermilk

Lawn Chair Balloonists: Some People Will Do Anything to Fly

Behold the lawn chair balloonist Kent Couch. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)

If you could have any super power, what would it be? I love asking this question. My friend Ben said he'd like to be able to talk to animals. He's a softie. Robert reports that he's torn between wanting to talk to cats (another one!) and wanting to manipulate atmospheric heat. Sarah's also digging on the Dr. Dolittle and the flying. I'm a little surprised. I thought for sure the power most would prefer hands-down (pun so intended) is flying, because there are always wacky stories in the news about people launching themselves in the air, heedless of their own safety.

The classic example is Lawn Chair Larry, also known as Lawrence Walters, the gentleman celebrated by the Darwin Awards for tying 42 weather balloons to his lawn chair and shooting up 16,000 feet into LAX airspace with nothing but beer and a few sandwiches to keep him company. Miraculously, Larry survived his brush with the wide blue yonder. He descended after shooting a few of the balloons with the gun he'd thoughtfully brought along. Larry received a fine, but he was also honored with a musical and pretty much an everlasting place in pop culture, kind of like the 78-year-old guy in Pixar's "Up," which I still haven't seen. Anyway, here's some video of Larry's famous flight:

Larry's flying feat even has a name -- cluster ballooning, according to the Balloon Federation of America. He wasn't the first to try it, and he won't be the last. Kent Couch has soared skyward on multiple occasions. You can even watch the Oregon gas station owner rise above it all at his Web site. Maybe you caught the MythBusters episode where they tried it out? If you're old school, you might be more familiar with Jean Piccard's 1937 flight.

According to the BFA, about 10 or so trips like this occur every year. But don't strap yourself into your custom La-Z- Boy airship just yet. You may want to check in with the Federal Aviation Administration if you're going to try it in the U.S. F-16s. Jumbo jet engines. Think about it, won't you?

I bring all of this up because Jonathan forwarded me a story about a 6-year-old Denver boy who apparently tried to fly today. He climbed into his dad's homemade balloon contraption earlier this morning. As of this afternoon, the "homemade flying saucer" had landed, but there's no word on the boy. Here's hoping his flying adventures ended safely. (And yes, they did. He never got on the balloon in the first place.)

Take to the winds at HowStuffWorks.com (or just weigh in with your favorite super power below, too):

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