Lawrence Walters — though most people call him “Larry” — is a man who give new and exalted meaning to the phrase “sky high ambitions.”
As a boy, he had always dreamed of flying. This is a common fantasy that children have, though most tend to drop the thought as they grow older.
Not Larry, though. He worked and worked until, at last, he was able to accomplish his childhood dream of taking flight. And he did it not in a plane or in a rocket, as you might expect, but in a chair strapped to balloons.
Larry’s story is uplifting and awe-inspiring, and it must be read to be believed.
How Larry Got to Fly
Born in 1949, Larry Walters was a quiet and seemingly ordinary boy who secretly harbored a burning desire: he wanted to fly. And when he turned 13, that desire began to take shape when he happened to enter a military surplus store. Glancing up at the ceiling, he saw a collection of weather balloons.
Finally, in 1982, Larry decided that the day had come and that it was time to put his plan to taking to the skies into action. Not only that, but he persuaded his girlfriend at that time, Carol van Deusen, to help him.
Together, the couple headed to a store in California called California Toy Time Ballooners and purchased a total of 45 weather balloons, each of which could be blown up to become up to 8 feet in diameter, and a bunch of helium tanks.
Then, on July 2, 1982, Larry hooked his balloons up to a simple lawn chair, packed a pellet gun and a CB radio into the contraption and took some beer and sandwiches along with him to enjoy during his flight and planned to take off. The purpose of the pellet gun, of course, was to enable him to burst his balloons one by one when the time came for him to descend back to earth.
Larry’s chair was to be tethered to the ground until he reached an altitude of about 10,000 feet. Then, the plan was to start descending.
But Larry hit a snag on his trip to the cloud. The tether line unexpectedly snapped, and he ended up sitting in his chair and rising far higher than intended — up to 16,000 feet above the ground.
Then, his glasses fell to the ground. At this point, the audio recording showed Larry panicking.
He started hearing airplane engines. In fact, two commercial airliners spotted him on their radar!
Thankfully, the crazy daredevil was able to use his CB radio to contact REACT, the radio monitoring organization, and have them inform a federal airport that he was sailing into that he would be planning an unauthorized landing.
By carefully and strategically popping his weather balloons with his pellet gun, Larry started descending. Terrifyingly, he happened to drop the gun in the middle of this, but by then, he had popped enough balloons to start smoothly coming back down to earth.
If that wasn’t enough, Larry encountered another problem. Before reaching the ground, Larry and his chair got tangled in some power lines. Though Larry was thankfully not harmed, he did cause a 20-minute local blackout.
And then, he was arrested for his trouble. He was then hit with a $4,000 fine, which, on appeal, he brought down to $1,500.
As you can imagine, a media frenzy ensued over this crazy event, and you can learn more about what happened by watching the soon-to-be-released documentary, “The Lawnchair Pilot.”