Larry Walters

Lawrence Richard Walters, nicknamed Lawnchair Larry or the Lawn Chair Pilot, (April 19, 1949October 6, 1993) was an American adventurer. He took flight on July 2, 1982 in a homemade aircraft, dubbed Inspiration I, that he had fashioned out of a Sears patio chair and 45 helium-filled weather balloons. He rose to an altitude of 16,000 feet (3 miles) and floated from his point of origin in San Pedro, California into federal airspace near Long Beach airport. The account of his flight was widely reported in newspapers. The feat is noted as an urban legend, albeit one based on actual events.

Preparation and launch
Walters and his girlfriend, Carol Van Deusen, purchased 45 four-foot weather balloons and helium tanks at California Toy Time Balloons. To avoid suspicion, they used a forged requisition from his employer, FilmFair Studios, saying the balloons were for a television commercial shoot. Walters then attached the balloons to his lawnchair, filled them with helium, donned a parachute, and strapped himself to the chair with a pellet gun (with which he intended to shoot the balloons to lower himself), a CB radio, sandwiches, soft drinks, and a camera. After that, things did not work out as he had planned. When his friends cut the cord that had tied his lawnchair to his jeep, Walters' lawnchair, which was planned to rise 100 feet above the ground, quickly rose to a height of about 16,000 feet (3 miles); he did not dare shoot any balloons, fearing that he might unbalance the load. He drifted over Long Beach and crossed the primary approach corridor of Long Beach airport.
After spending about 45 minutes in the sky, though, he came to the conclusion that he would have to shoot a few balloons after all; doing so caused him to descend slowly again, until the balloon's dangling cables got caught in a power line, causing a black out in a Long Beach neighborhood for 20 minutes, but also allowing Walters to climb down to the ground again.

Arrest and notoriety
He was immediately arrested by waiting members of the LAPD; when asked by a reporter why he had done it, Walters replied "a man can't just sit around." He was later fined US$4,000 by the Federal Aviation Administration for violations of the Federal Aviation Act, including operating a "civil aircraft for which there is not currently in effect an airworthiness certificate" and operating an aircraft within an airport traffic area "without establishing and maintaining two-way communications with the control tower." Walters appealed, and the fine was reduced to US$1,500.
Walters also received the top prize from the Bonehead Club of Dallas for his adventure, as well as invitations to The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman and an honorable mention in 1982's Darwin Awards. His lawn-chair balloon was also featured in an episode of Mythbusters.

Origin of his plan
The story goes that Walters had always dreamed of flying but was unable to become a pilot in the United States Air Force due to bad eyesight. He first came up with the idea of using weather balloons to fly at age 13, when seeing them hanging from the ceiling of an Army Navy surplus store. His original plan was to attach a couple of helium-filled weather balloons to his lawnchair, then cut the anchor and float above his backyard at a height of about 30 feet for a few hours, finally using a pellet gun to pop the balloons one after another to float gently to the ground again.
Life after the flight
The lawnchair used in his flight was given to an admiring boy named Jerry, although Walters later admitted he regretted doing so. The Smithsonian Institution asked him to donate it to its museum. Twenty years later, the boy, by that time an adult, sent an e-mail to Mark Barry, a pilot who had documented Walters's story and dedicated a Web site to it, and identified himself as the boy who was given the chair. It had been sitting in his garage the whole time, still attached to some of the original tethers and water jugs used as ballast.
Walters was in brief demand as a motivational speaker after his flight and quit his job as a truck driver, but never was able to make much money from his fame. Later on in his life, Walters hiked the San Gabriel Mountains and did volunteer work for the United States Forest Service before committing suicide by shooting himself in the heart in Angeles National Forest on October 6, 1993

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