Lawn chair balloonist lands in tree after flight over Washington

Lawn chair balloonist lands in tree after flight over Washington

Update: Joe Barbera's balloon landed in a tree near the Lewis River Saturday afternoon. He is in radio contact with his family and friends. He is not hurt.

A post on his Facebook page says "We have radio contact with him. He's up in a tree above sunset falls. People are on their way to help him down."

Original story below


LA CENTER, Wash. – Joe Barbera sat back in his lawn chair, filled up some balloons, and lifted off on Saturday morning.

He and his friends were busy late Friday night filling up the 100 helium balloons that they attached to the 60-year-old's lawn chair.

The contraption is named "Imagine" and "it's a lawn chair waiting to fly," Barbera said.

It's been a lifelong dream for the half retired, half unemployed engineer.

"Imagine" might be 30 years in the making but Barbera and his friends cobbled it together in his driveway in only one month.

They used no plans and no models – just math and way too much free time and imagination.

The planned liftoff was 4 a.m. Saturday, but Barbera took off about four hours later.

The chair will fly where the wind wants it to go. Barbera hopes that's at least 268 miles, which will be enough to break the world record.

"I've been thinking about this forever," he says. "Little by little, I've been working on the details, the problems. I've got oxygen when I get above 12,000 feet. We've got sand ballast if I need it."

Is he crazy?

"Crazy, but not stupid," he says. "This is reasonably well engineered."

He'll use a BB gun to shoot out the balloons to come in for a landing.

Does Barbera's son, Riley, think his father is crazy?

"Crazy is one way to put it," Riley says.

Barbera says he's not worried even though he's aware there's a chance he won't make it back.

He's bringing GPS trackers and video cameras along for the ride. You can track him here.

He's wanted to do this since 1982 when he saw a man named Larry Walters build one. Walters flew over LAX and when he landed, he was arrested. Barbera says he's been working with the FAA to avoid that.