It was from a backyard in San Pedro California that Larry Walters made some sort of aviation history in 1982. Larry had a fascination for balloons since his childhood when during a visit to Disneyland he saw a woman holding a large bunch of balloons, his thought was if you get enough of those they'll lift you up. He started using hydrogen to inflate small balloons and send them off with notes attached. He didn't get any replies.
Later he discovered weather balloons in a surplus store and realised that these were what he needed to achieve his dream of flight. He bought a garden recliner chair to which he attached 42 helium filled balloons, when these were inflated they had a diameter of around 7ft each. The balloons would lift about a quarter of a ton so how to get airborne was not a problem, Larry and his chair were a lot lighter than that.
The launch pad was the back garden where the chair with balloons was tied to the bumper of his friends car with a sturdy rope which was designed to stop the ascent at 150ft. He had miscalculated how powerful the lift from the balloons would be and he and his chair rose at an alarming rate. He was rising at 800 feet per minute and when he reached 150ft the rope snapped! He was rising so fast that he quickly reached a height of 16500ft. He was spotted by pilots taking off from LA airport one of them reported in, "This is TWA 231, level at 16000ft. We have a man in a chair attached to balloons in our 10 o'clock position range 5 miles".
Larry had the foresight to take an air pistol with him and managed to burst several balloons before he accidentally dropped the gun from the chair. The remaining balloons began to leak and gradually the chair began to descend. He made it back down and was fined $1500 for flying an unworthy machine. Larry had named his flying machine "Inspiration".
Member since: 2nd April 2013
Hi I'm Tom Bosher
I run thebestofchelmsford and am passionate about helping the independent businesses in Chelmsford thrive and achieve their goals.