Lawn-chair balloonist Kent Couch boarded a plane Thursday for the start of a journey that he hopes will end in Iraq with a safe launch and landing beneath a huge cluster of party balloons.
Couch made headlines worldwide in 2008 when he flew a specially rigged lawn chair supported by more than 150 helium-filled party balloons from the parking lot of his Bend gas station to an Idaho field. The trip spanned 235 miles.
Couch says Iraqi daredevil Fareed Lafta invited him to Baghdad for a Nov. 15 flight at a youth conference in the Green Zone.
"Our idea is to say, `This is our dream. Now, what can you dream?"' Couch told KTVZ. "This is to show the American and Iraqi people that we can work together to accomplish a goal, to complete a dream, and inspire them to do it."
Couch says the plan is to rig 300 balloons to lift the two of them sitting in a pair of lawn chairs for an overnight flight of 400 miles at 25,000 feet, which will require oxygen masks.
Spokesman Mark Knowles told The Associated Press that Couch and his wife, Susan, left early Thursday for Dubai.
They still have some logistical issues to work out before the flight, Knowles said.
"There are a lot of missing parts, still," he said. "We are doing our best."
Knowles says Couch will be posting on Twitter, @KentCouch.
KTVZ reports Couch is accompanied by a film crew from White Knuckle Productions in Bend.
On his July 5, 2008, flight, Couch cruised at 15,000 feet, where he said the clouds parted to let him through and he could hear cows mooing in the fields below.
He used a BB gun to shoot out balloons so he could land.
Couch said his biggest fear is floating into neighboring Iran. If that happens, he says they will just go up and come right back down.
He hopes to have favorable winds that will allow a flight of more than 400 miles at an elevation of 25,000 feet, using oxygen masks.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)