Lawnchair Larry: The Incredible Story of Flight!

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In summary, the story of Lawnchair Larry is an incredible one. Apparently, Walters took flight in a homemade aircraft and rose to an altitude of 16,000 feet before drifting away with the wind and being caught by a helicopter.
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What an incredible story! Apparently this really happened.

Lawrence Richard Walters, nicknamed Lawnchair Larry or the Lawn Chair Pilot, (b. April 19, 1949, d. October 6, 1993) 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. Although the account of his flight was widely reported in newspapers, it is often mistaken as an urban legend. Walters is one of the few Darwin Award contenders that lived to tell the tale.

There have been some urban legend-ish mutations of the story though, such as this:

He found himself drifting into the primary approach corridor of Los Angeles International Airport. A United pilot first spotted Larry. He radioed the tower and described passing a guy in a lawn chair with a gun. Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating 11,000 feet above the airport. LAX emergency procedures swung into full alert and a helicopter was dispatched to investigate. LAX is right on the ocean. Night was falling and the offshore breeze began to flow. It carried Larry out to sea with the helicopter in hot pursuit.Several miles out, the helicopter caught up with Larry. Once the crew determined that Larry was not dangerous, they attempted to close in for a rescue but the draft from the blades would push Larry away whenever they neared. Finally, the helicopter ascended to a position several hundred feet above Larry and lowered a rescue line. Larry snagged the line and was hauled back to shore. The difficult maneuver was flawlessly executed by the helicopter crew.

Without a doubt my favorite part of the story, again from Wikipedia:

Larry [passed near] Long Beach airport, where TWA and Delta airlines pilots sighted him and reported him to the tower.

:rofl: Imagine piloting a commercial airplane and seeing a guy floating at 16,000 feet in a lawnchair!
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  • #2
This story even worked its way into the plot of a musical called "3hree". It was called The Flight of the Lawnchair Man, and I saw it at the Ahmanson Theater in LA in 2000.
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  • #3
hypnagogue said:
:rofl: Imagine piloting a commercial airplane and seeing a guy floating at 16,000 feet in a lawnchair!
Really! If they're afraid to report UFOs cause people will think they're crazy, who'd be nuts enough to report a guy in a lawnchair?
  • #4
"A man can't just sit around." just lol at his provisions, sandwiches and a 6 pack. I am suprised that others haven't done this.
  • #6
Lol, maybe he made it into the darwin awards after all.
Larry Walters died eleven years after his flight from what the Los Angeles Times described as a self-inflected gunshot wound.
  • #7
You talkin' to me? YOU TALKIN' TO ME?!? Oh, someone else.. Right, sorry..

If you google "cluster ballooning" you'll get a ton of hits on this. Flying with lots of helium balloons is still not terribly common but not unheard of either. It's mostly something hot air balloonists toy with, having at least a moderate degree of experience with balloons and/or flying is probably called for.
  • #8
I recall reading somewhere, about someone inventing a helium flying suit. It must not of worked well, cause we're not all flying around in one.
  • #9
As far as I understand things, a liter of pure helium (regular helium balloon helium is often cut with N2, there's no need for the lift since they generally hold up only a balloon so why waste expensive helium) will lift about 1 gram. Thus, a 100 lbs person would need a bit over 45 cubic meters to be neutrally buoyant and a little more to rise. In other words, a suit would be rather large. Even hydrogen only lifts a little less then 0.1 g more per liter and since air weighs roughtly 1.25 g/l one couldn't lift more then that in terms of sheer bouyancy (there are, of course, heavier-then-air options like, say, an airplane).

Most people who feel attracted to lighter-then-air flight probably just go for a regular hot air balloon or possibly a helium balloon or blimb. They're well tested and commercially available technologies, so considerably easier to come by then other options. Not that that should dissuade people from using more out-there ways, but they're certainly a solid training ground to start on.
  • #10
Check out Mythbusters for their take on it.

What is the story of Lawnchair Larry and his flight?

Lawnchair Larry, also known as Larry Walters, was a truck driver who fulfilled his dream of flying by attaching 45 helium-filled weather balloons to a lawn chair and soaring up to 16,000 feet in the air. He flew for about an hour before safely landing in a neighborhood near Los Angeles International Airport in 1982.

Was Lawnchair Larry's flight legal?

No, it was not. Larry did not have a pilot's license and did not inform the authorities or air traffic control about his flight. He also flew into restricted airspace near the airport. He faced consequences from the Federal Aviation Administration, but was not charged with any major crimes.

Did Larry Walters have any prior experience or training in aviation?

No, he did not. Larry was a truck driver and had no formal training or experience in aviation. He learned about flying from reading books and talking to pilots.

What happened to Lawnchair Larry after his flight?

Larry's flight gained a lot of media attention and he became somewhat of a celebrity. He appeared on talk shows and even had a song written about him. However, he struggled with fame and eventually faded into obscurity. He passed away in 1993 at the age of 44.

Did Lawnchair Larry inspire any other similar flights?

Yes, Larry's story has inspired many people to attempt similar flights using lawn chairs and helium balloons. However, these flights are extremely dangerous and have resulted in injuries and even death. Larry's flight is often used as a cautionary tale about the dangers of reckless and untrained aviation attempts.

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