“A truck driver with 45 weather balloons rigged to a lawn chair took a 45-minute ride aloft to 16,000 feet today before he got cold, shot some balloons out and crashed into a power line, the police said.” – New York Times1
Larry Walters was 33 at the time and he desperately wanted to fly. Then one day, on July 2nd, 1982, he strapped 42 helium balloons to an aluminum chair. Not one to go without being adequately prepared, Larry brought with him a flashlight, road map, BB gun to shoot down the balloons, and, of course, some beef jerky for when he got hungry.
And yes, there was a seat belt but, in his excitement, Larry forgot to buckle it. Oh, he did have a road map though.2
The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) fined him $1,500 for being in an airport space and not contacting the control tower.3 They couldn’t take away his pilot’s license because he didn’t have one. He was just a guy with a dream to fly.
There’s something about Larry’s story that’s compelling. That he survived (crash landed into power wires causing a large-scale blackout) is one thing. What’s another is that he had the audacity to be a nincompoop. Larry must have known that his life was confined to a chair: Drive a truck. Come home and sit down. Drive a truck.
There are two types of people in this World. The first are the type to sit in a chair, waiting for permission. Waiting to be given their next task or to have somebody say that it’s OK for them to take a chance to fly. The other group of people are like Larry Walters who was crazy but, my friend, it’s the crazy ones who want to fly that actually do. Let them try to figure out how to punish you after.
When asked why he did it Larry said, “you can’t just sit there”.
3All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten – Robert Fulghum