Those of us around at the time recall this adventure very well. The thrill was that someone could do something so stupid, so great, so wonderful, so quirky, so – well – dangerous, that we all wished we had the same balls to do it! And therein lies the audacity of human invention. Makes me proud to be an American!!


Impressive but a mere shadow of the balls of the original Lawn Chair Aviator:

Lawrence Richard Walters, nicknamed “Lawnchair Larry” or the “Lawn Chair Pilot”, (April 19, 1949 – October 6, 1993) was an American truck driver who took flight on July 2, 1982, in a homemade airship. Dubbed Inspiration I, the “flying machine” consisted of an ordinary patio chair with 45 helium-filled weather balloons attached to it. Walters rose to an altitude of over 15,000 feet (4,600 m) and floated from his point of origin in San Pedro, California, into controlled airspace near Los Angeles International Airport. His flight was widely reported.

The Larry Walters Story:

“Now let me tell you about Larry Walters, my hero. Walters is a truck driver, thirty-three years old. He is sitting in his lawn chair in his backyard, wishing he could fly. For as long as he could remember, he wanted to go UP. To be able to just rise right up in the air and see for a long way. The time, money, education, and opportunity to be a pilot were not his. Hang gliding was too dangerous, and any good place for gliding was too far away. So he spent a lot of summer afternoons sitting in his backyard in his ordinary old aluminum lawn chair – the kind with the webbing and rivets. Just like the one you’ve got in your backyard.

“The next chapter in this story is carried by the newspapers and television. There’s old Larry Walters up in the air over Los Angeles. Flying at last. Really getting UP there. Still sitting in his aluminum lawn chair, but it’s hooked on to forty-five helium-filled surplus weather balloons. Larry has a parachute on, a CB radio, a six-pack of beer, some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a BB gun to pop some of the balloons to come down. And instead of being just a couple of hundred feet over his neighborhood, he shot up eleven thousand feet, right through the approach corridor to the Los Angeles International Airport.

“Walters is a taciturn man. When asked by the press why he did it, he said: “You can’t just sit there.” When asked if he was scared, he answered: “Wonderfully so.” When asked if he would do it again, he said: “Nope.” And asked if he was glad that he did it, he grinned from ear to ear and said: “Oh, yes.”

“The human race sits in its chair. On the one hand is the message that says there’s nothing left to do. And the Larry Walterses of the earth are busy tying balloons to their chairs, directed by dreams and imagination to do their thing.

“The human race sits in its chair. On the one hand is the message that the human situation is hopeless. And the Larry Walterses of the earth soar upward knowing anything is possible, sending back the message from eleven thousand feet: “I did it, I really did it. I’m FLYING!”

“It’s the spirit here that counts. The time may be long, the vehicle may be strange or unexpected. But if the dream is held close to the heart, and imagination is applied to what there is close at hand, everything is still possible.

“But wait! Some cynic from the edge of the crowd insists that human beings still (can’t really) fly. Not like birds, anyway. True. But somewhere in some little garage, some maniac with a gleam in his eye is scarfing vitamins and mineral supplements, and practicing flapping his arms faster and faster.”

— From Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

The audacity of human invention. From the newspaper reports of the event, Walters  was able to drop to the ground a few feet below his lawn chair. As he was coming down over the roofs of Long Beach, he said, “I was saying prayers to God to please let me down in one piece.” He was jettisoning equipment as he came down – including his pellet gun, life jacket and radio. When he came back down to earth about 11:45 am, his face was sunburned a bright red and Walters was tired but exhilarated. “I have fufilled my 20-year dream,” he announced. Did he plan to go up again? “I’m staying right on the ground, yes ma’am. I proved to myself that the thing does work.”

The Federal Aviation Administration took a less happy view. “We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act,” regional safety inspector Neil Savoy told the Associated Press, “and as soon as we decide which part it is, some type of charge will be filed.” But Lt. Reed of the Long Beach police shrugged. “There probably won’t be any action taken,” he said, “basically because there is nothing that covers something so unorthodox.”

Waters, July 2, 1982



h/t gerardvanderleun : January 21, 15  |American Digest