By: Gary Bergenske

Larry Walters had always wanted to fly.  That had been his dream since he was a little kid.  Everything was going according to plan until he failed that eye examination in the Air Force.  Once that happened, his dream was altered and he got out of the Air Force as soon as he could and became a truck driver in southern California.  But he never gave up on his dream.  One afternoon sitting in his lawn chair in his back yard in North Hollywood, California looking up at those white criss cross plumes of exhaust from jet out take against that purple blue California sky, Larry got an idea.  He went down to the local Army Navy surplus store and Larry bought 45 weather balloons.  Now these are not your normal party balloons, these are weather balloons six feet across in diameter and several tanks of helium.  This is a true story.

Larry comes back to his backyard and proceeds to fill each of those weather balloons up.  As he got one inflated he would attach it to his lawn chair that he had in his back yard.  Now his lawn chair was anchored to the bumper of his Jeep with a strong canvas cord.  He got all 45 weather balloons arranged in different tiers over his lawn chair and went inside, fixed himself a sack lunch and got his son’s BB gun, put on a parachute, and came out and sat in the lawn chair.  Now, here was the plan, he was going to cut that cord, and float lazily up into the sky and enjoy some scenery he had never been able to see before, but had always dreamed of.  He would regulate his altitude by shooting the balloons one at a time with his son’s BB gun.

July 2nd 1982, Larry sits in his lawn chair and cuts that cord.  Now what happened next could be described in a number of ways, but floating Lazily up would not be one that you pick.  Larry shot out of his back Yard like he had been shot out of a cannon.  He didn’t level off till he hit 16,000 feet.  Now the reason we know it was 16,000 feet, is a pilot with Delta Airlines was on his approach to Los Angeles International airport and looked out his window.  He radioed to the control tower at LAX, and said, you are not going to believe this, there’s a guy outside my window in a lawn chair with a gun in his lap.

He was right, they didn’t believe him.  But after awhile, they did.   In fact, they believed him and a lot of other authorities did.  News crews found out about it, and it was a stir.  By the time he got back on the ground, he was arrested.  Now they did not know what they were arresting him for, they just knew they needed to arrest him.

You see, I had lunch with a private pilot friend of mine a while ago, and we were talking about this and he said, “What you do when someone interferes with the airspace at an airport like this, is that you take away their pilots license.”  Larry didn’t have a pilots license, so they couldn’t take that away, but they just knew they needed to arrest him.

So, as they are carting him away, a reporter got a microphone in Larry’s face and said, “Mr. Walters, Mr. Walters, why did you do it?”

Larry didn’t hesitate.  You know what he said?

“A man can’t just sit around doin’ nothin.”

I love that, a man just can’t sit around doin’ nothin.

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