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View Full Version : Lawn chair & 105 helium balloons: Up, up and awaaaay!



Palomar
2007-Jul-10, 05:48 PM
105 balloons put lawn chair pilot in air - Yahoo! News (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070710/ap_on_re_us/flying_lawn_chair)


Last weekend, Kent Couch settled down in his lawn chair with some snacks and a parachute. Attached to his lawn chair were 105 large helium balloons.

Destination: Idaho.

With instruments to measure his altitude and speed, a global positioning system device in his pocket, and about four plastic bags holding five gallons of water each to act as ballast he could turn a spigot, release water and rise Couch headed into the Oregon sky.

:)


Nearly nine hours later, the 47-year-old gas station owner came back to earth in a farmer's field near Union, short of Idaho but about 193 miles from home


"When you're a little kid and you're holding a helium balloon, it has to cross your mind," Couch told the Bend Bulletin.

"When you're laying in the grass on a summer day, and you see the clouds, you wish you could jump on them," he said. "This is as close as you can come to jumping on them. It's just like that."

Yeah! :dance:


was Couch's second flight.

In September, he got off the ground for six hours. Like Walters, he used a BB gun to pop the balloons, but he went into a rapid descent and eventually parachuted to safety.

This time, he was better prepared. The balloons had a new configuration, so it was easier to reach up and release a bit of helium instead of simply cutting off a balloon.


"It was beautiful beautiful," he told KTVZ-TV. He described the flight as mostly peaceful and serene, with occasional turbulence, like a hot-air balloon ride sitting down.

:)

A somewhat sad ending, though:


But after he jumped out, the wind grabbed his chair, with his video recorder, and the remaining balloons and swept them away. He's hoping to get them back some day.

Aw. :(

But what a ride!

Fazor
2007-Jul-10, 06:21 PM
And what about the part detailing the black FAA sedan heading towards his home with a fine and possibly an arrest warrent? Or did he actually have permission?

Larry Jacks
2007-Jul-10, 06:21 PM
Looks like fun. I've also seen a man who attaches small weather balloons to a parachute harness and makes flights. Helium isn't cheap, though. IIRC, each such flight cost well over $1000. Still, it looks like a beautiful ride. It also looks like Mr. Couch did his homework and conducted a pretty well thought out flight.

farmerjumperdon
2007-Jul-10, 06:34 PM
Sounds like fun, but I wonder how bullet-proof his setup was? It says he had a parachute, which is of minimal value unless he's trained to use it. Wish there were more details like the altitude of his flight, pictures of his rig, whether or not he had permission, etc.

That going into clouds bit is very dangerous. Certainly the big-sky-small-bullet factor helps, but not being visible to other "craft" is a recipe for disaster.

NEOWatcher
2007-Jul-10, 06:36 PM
... It also looks like Mr. Couch did his homework and conducted a pretty well thought out flight.
But not landing...who would have thought the remaining balloons would have gone back up when almost all of the weight were lifted. :lol:

Probably should have shot the rest of the balloons before leaving the chair.

Larry Jacks
2007-Jul-10, 06:53 PM
After all of those hours in the lawn chair, he may have been in a hurry to do some ballast dumping of his own. He may also have just been tired enough to make a simple mistake.

Bean Counter
2007-Jul-10, 07:09 PM
My question is what is the lifting capacity of helium? Does a pound of helium have the lift potential to lift a pound of human (or whatever)? Or what is the ratio required?

farmerjumperdon
2007-Jul-10, 07:13 PM
That's one of the reasons I asked about his rig and altitude. Nine hours aloft must have been a grind to begin with. Add complicating factors like a jerry-rigged system & possibly very little experience; little things can turn into big problems in a hurry.

I'm checking with the jump community to see if anybody knows more about this.

Palomar
2007-Jul-10, 07:53 PM
Add complicating factors like a jerry-rigged system & possibly very little experience; little things can turn into big problems in a hurry.

Yeah...like sudden nasty downdrafts, which have been known to slam airliners down to the ground. :shifty:

hhEb09'1
2007-Jul-10, 08:00 PM
Yeah...like sudden nasty downdrafts, which have been known to slam airliners down to the ground. :shifty:I don't think those really work on balloons that well :)

pghnative
2007-Jul-10, 08:16 PM
My question is what is the lifting capacity of helium? Does a pound of helium have the lift potential to lift a pound of human (or whatever)? Or what is the ratio required?Well, a given volume of air weighs ~ 7 times that of the same volume of helium, assuming the pressures are equal, or a 6 to 1 lift ratio. So to a first approximation, you'd need only 16 kg of helium to lift 100 kg of a large man.

Of course, this ignores
a) the fact that the helium in the balloons is surely at a higher pressure that the surrounding air, and that ratio cuts into the lift ratio. (So if the balloon is 2X the pressure of the air, then the air/helium mass ratio is 3.5:1 instead of 7:1, and you'd need 40 kg of helium to lift a 100 kg man.

b) the weight of the balloon material, the chair, and other paraphenalia

Gillianren
2007-Jul-10, 08:26 PM
And what about the part detailing the black FAA sedan heading towards his home with a fine and possibly an arrest warrent? Or did he actually have permission?

We do, after all, have previous evidence that it's an illegal activity!

Fazor
2007-Jul-10, 08:28 PM
We do, after all, have previous evidence that it's an illegal activity!
The original weather-balloonist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Walters), himself. Yes. :)

Larry Jacks
2007-Jul-10, 09:37 PM
The original flight took place in very crowded airspace (Los Angeles). This flight might be perfectly legal. The balloon rig would probably be considered an ultralight (http://www.balloonlife.com/publications/balloon_life/9507/far103.htm), so no license would be required. If he didn't violate restricted or controlled airspace (odds are he didn't), then the FAA might not have any problem with it.

Here's some info (http://www.clusterballoon.org/history.htm) from US cluster balloon pilot John Ninomiya.

My helium cluster balloons have been flown legally under Part 103, the part of the Federal Aviation Regulations governing "ultralight vehicles" such as hang-gliders, paragliders and ultralight airplanes. To remain legal under Part 103, my flights must avoid "congested areas" and the airspace controlled by airports or ATC (Class A, B, C, D and certain parts of class E). My flight to 21,400 feet was done with permission of Los Angeles Center ATC, and required me to carry an aircraft radio and transponder.

My cluster balloons have ranged between 7,000 and 9,000 cubic feet in volume. The balloons I currently use are latex balloons, ranging in size from five to eight feet. The balloons are sealed with masking tape and cable ties, and are secured with nylon twine to carabiners in groups of three to six, depending on the size of the balloons. The carabiners are attached to long webbing straps that attach to the harness I wear. The webbing straps are of different heights to hold the balloons in tiers; this allows me to cut away the top layer of balloons without risk of tangling, which would be necessary to avoid being dragged in a high-wind landing. The harness I wear was designed for paragliding, and includes an integral reserve parachute and a padded back protector. I carry water ballast in two-gallon bladders designed for camping use.

NEOWatcher
2007-Jul-11, 12:25 PM
Originally Posted by Palomar http://www.bautforum.com/images/buttons/viewpost.gif (http://www.bautforum.com/off-topic-babbling/61902-lawn-chair-105-helium-balloons-up-up-awaaaay-post1027544.html#post1027544)
Yeah...like sudden nasty downdrafts, which have been known to slam airliners down to the ground. :shifty:

I don't think those really work on balloons that well :)
I was wondering that... Am I right in thinking that the airliner scenerio is a result of the downdraft causing a loss of lift? The balloons will always have lift.

Hornblower
2007-Jul-11, 02:04 PM
I was wondering that... Am I right in thinking that the airliner scenerio is a result of the downdraft causing a loss of lift? The balloons will always have lift.

If the balloon is in neutral buoyancy, it will move down with a downdraft just as it moves sideways with the wind.

Near the ground, the outflow from a downburst would jerk the balloon sideways. With an airplane, this same outflow can cause loss of lift by creating a sudden tailwind. The plane's inertia keeps it from following the changing wind instantly.

Larry Jacks
2007-Jul-11, 02:04 PM
A microburst associated with a thunderstorm is a very high speed of downward moving air. If an airliner gets caught in one while near the ground, it could crash. It isn't so much a loss of lift as insufficient lift to overcome the downward velocity of the microburst. Fortunately, detection technology and pilot training makes this kind of accident quite rare. A balloon caught in a microburst would be in big trouble.

Wind shear is a sudden change in wind velocity. Suppose you're flying into a 25 knot headwind while on approach. If the wind velocity suddenly decreases or changes direction, you can have a significant loss of lift. In a piston powered plane like mine, you can cob the throttle and adjust or go around fairly easily (although your heart rate is likely to increase). Jet engines take longer to increase power. Once again, detection technology and pilot training makes this kind of accident quite rare today. Since a balloon drifts with the wind, wind sheer probably wouldn't be as big of an issue unless it caused the pilot to miss his intended landing spot.

NEOWatcher
2007-Jul-11, 02:22 PM
...It isn't so much a loss of lift as insufficient lift to overcome the downward velocity of the microburst. Fortunately, detection technology and pilot training makes this kind of accident quite rare. A balloon caught in a microburst would be in big trouble.
I would have thought the recovery of the airplane from it's downward momentum would have been a big factor (among those you mention).

At the same thought, I would have thought the balloon's momentum would be minimal (at least compared to the direct "wind" effect), and danger buffered by the wind having more of an outward movement as you get closer to the ground.

Larry Jacks
2007-Jul-11, 07:00 PM
Think of a bug flying down a highway. A car comes along. The front end of the car deflects the airflow upwards but the odds are the bug will still hit the windshield.

If the balloon is caught in a strong downdraft, it will have inertia in the downward direction. The change in wind direction when the downdraft hits the ground may not be enough to overcome the balloon's inertia. The results are the same as with the bug - splat.