Cluster Balloon Flight Planned in Iraq
November 10 2011 – In July 2008, Kent “The Balloon Man” Couch made headlines around the world when he attached 150 helium balloons to a lawn chair and floated some 235 miles from his gas station in Bend, Oregon, to Cambridge, Idaho. Next week Couch will attempt to set a Guinness World Record for cluster ballooning by flying in tandem (two lawn chairs) over Iraq with self-described Iraqi extreme sports enthusiast/daredevil Fareed Lafta.
Couch says Lafta invited him via e-mail to participate in the “World Conference for Talent” scheduled for next week. Plans are to use 300 balloons for the November 15 launch from Baghdad’s Green Zone, and the pair plans to remain aloft for 24 hours. During that time they’ll aim for an altitude of 25,000 feet MSL while traveling more than 600 miles.
The aim of the project, according to Couch’s website, is “to highlight the post-war cultural need to enrich the world of Iraqi children and youth by encouraging them to dream big for the future!”
Couch, an EAA member from 2007-2009, told the Associated Press, “Now that Saddam Hussein is gone, and the U.S. is pulling out, it is time Iraq really steps up and begins to dream about putting the country back together. I think between having a U.S. citizen and an Iraqi citizen launch together, where we are saying we are fulfilling our dream, it will encourage them to dream, knowing the sky is the limit if they just reach out and try.”
KTVZ in Bend reports that Couch and his wife, Susan, left Thursday, November 3, for Dubai. Two lawn chairs, supporting framework, and the balloons were sent earlier.
“The fear is if we drift to Iran, which is only about 85 miles from Baghdad - and if we were to get a wind blowing west, we would just have to go up and come back down, because I’m not going to gamble being in Iran for very long,” Couch said.