On Saturday, Kent Couch and Fareed Lafta sat on lawn chairs tied to 350 helium balloons and lifted off from a parking lot in Oregon. With clear skies and light winds marking the start of their journey, drifting the 500 miles to a Guinness World Record for the longest two-man cluster balloon flight seemed a matter of time. But, the weather trolled and they had to land a mere 30 miles from where they started.
Couch and Lafta embarked on this particular cluster balloon flight to raise awareness for the children orphaned by the US-led war in Iraq.
By bringing attention to the over three million orphans of Iraq Capt. Fareed and Couch desire that global NGOs will take notice and partner with the people of Iraq to help care for these children.
Lafta is an experienced skydiver, and Couch is an experienced cluster balloonist, having flown a total of 433 miles in his two previous flights. They were equipped with GPS units, oxygen masks and parachutes for the flight, so the endeavor was probably not as foolhardy as it seems.
The flight could be tracked here. However, approximately 3.5 hours after lift-off, winds turned them around and was pushing them towards Prineville, Oregon where they eventually landed hoping to avoid encountering dangerous storms. Couch Balloon’s Facebook page announced that the approaching thunderstorms were “simply too much” for the balloons.
Before the flight, Couch had said to Reuters:
I am a God-fearing man, a believer in Jesus Christ. But I don’t consider cluster balloon flight death-defying. When people say that, it kind of just eggs me on.
YEAH MAN, IT’S DANGEROUS. DON’T EVER TRY FLYING EVER AGAIN.