Kent Couch is an experienced aviator who has made several trips over the beautiful plains of Oregon and all the way into Central Idaho, sitting comfortably on his helium balloon propelled lawn chair. On July 24th, the 50-year old thrill-seeker decided to it once more - this time, with his pal, 59-year old, John Fries.
Starting from Kent's favorite launching area near Couch's Shell Stop in Bend, Oregon, the two adventurers took off simultaneously, cheered on by a crowd of 100 volunteers. In a bid to break the 109 mile distance record set by Jonathan Trappe earlier this year, the two had hoped to race all the way to Idaho and maybe, even as far as, Montana.
However, this was not a very lucky day for either competitor. With very little wind to propel them, the two could not get going. While John flew in a fairly straight line, Kent who was also plagued by a malfunction in his ballast equipment took a little detour heading further North initially, and then further South over the desert, before finally meeting up with his buddy and landing east of Prineville in Central Oregon.
During the seven hour ordeal, Kent managed to cover a distance of only 112 km (62 miles), while John did little better with 117km (72 miles). Though they did not break the distance record, they did have a very peaceful time and, are officially in the Guinness Book of Records for the first-ever double launch and cluster balloon race!
What's next? Not much according to Kent - He believes he has done it all and says he is retiring from cluster ballooning. Why do we have a sneaky feeling that he will be back soon?