C-store Balloonist Delays Iraq Lawn Chair Flight Until March

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C-store Balloonist Delays Iraq Lawn Chair Flight Until March


BEND, Ore. -- After announcing a daring plan to take a balloon-powered flight over Iraq, convenience store owner Kent Couch and his Iraqi partner Fareed Lafta have delayed their adventure -- but only to accommodate more sponsors due to a surge of interest, according to a KTVZ.com report.

Couch, who owns and operates Stop & Go Mini Mart/Shell in Bend, took his first unusual flight in 2008, when he strapped 150 helium-filled balloons to a modified lawn chair and floated 235 miles from his store's parking lot to an Idaho field. Earlier this year, Lafta invited him to recreate the journey, only this time it would be from Baghdad to Basra, Iraq.

The flight, which was originally set for today, would have taken Couch and Lafta's pair of specially equipped lawn chairs 25,000 feet into the air for the 400-mile journey. It will take place next March instead, reported one of the filmmakers who are documenting the trip.

"Once we landed [in Dubai, United Arab Emirates], the project began to snowball," Marshall Burgtorf, a producer for White Knuckle Studios, according to KTVZ.. "The project has grown considerably, and Capt. Fareed and Kent decided it was best to postpone the launch to better serve the three-million-plus orphans of Iraq. This will also push the completion date of the documentary to summer 2012." Burgtorf added that the delay will allow more organizations and individuals to offer resources and talents to bring aid to the children.

When the flight does take place, the plan is for Lafta to skydive from the chairs into a stadium filled with Baghdad children before Couch steers them to a gentler landing. Lafta has reportedly skydived over Mt. Everest, the North Pole, Afghanistan and Iraq in the past. The pair will continue to document their preparations at www.balloonsoverbaghdad.com.

"I hope we will give them, for a couple days, a reason to smile," said Lafta. "We hope this will inspire NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to work in Iraq and help children."