The Incredible Flight of Lawn Chair Larry

The Incredible Flight of "Lawn Chair" Larry

In today’s lesson you’ll learn all about Larry Walters, or "Lawn Chair" Larry, who bought over 40 weather balloons, attached them to a lawn chair in his backyard and flew 16,000 feet up in the air. 

If you’d like to listen to Part 1 of this episode, which is about the common English expression "up in the air," click here.


When I was a young boy, about 13 years old, I was in an Army-Navy surplus store, saw a weather balloon dangling from the ceiling. And I just got the idea to put… to inflate these balloons and I figured if I had enough of them, it would lift me. The idea was just, you know, to float.

Larry Walters 

Hi, everyone. Welcome back. Today we have a very fun topic that we’re going to discuss. It’s all about "Lawn Chair" Larry, and cluster ballooning. I know right now you’re probably thinking, what in the world are those two things? And don’t worry, I’m going to cover it all.

In the introduction to this episode, you heard a brief recording of "Lawn Chair" Larry. He was on the David Letterman show way back in 1982, right after he took flight in his lawn chair. If you’re interested in seeing the full interview with "Lawn Chair" Larry, or as I should say, Larry Walters, be sure to type in Larry Walters interview with David Letterman 1982 into YouTube and you will find that video. I highly recommend it!


In 2009, an animated Pixar film came out called "Up," where an old man attached hundreds of helium balloons to his house and set course towards South America. A few years later, a real man from North Carolina named Jonathan Trappe built a house just like the one in the movie "Up;" he attached over 300 helium balloons and flew up to 20,000ft. That’s where the airplanes fly! He’s still alive and he’s the first man to ever take flight in a house.

Today’s story is about adventure and about the individuals who seek it with an extraordinarily unique hobby called cluster ballooning.

Larry Walters in flight

First of all, what’s a cluster?

A cluster is a group of similar things, things that are close together. You might see a cluster of people around someone who’s serving ice cream. Everyone is in the same area, everybody wants a scoop; It’s a cluster of people. In the hobby "cluster ballooning," you’ll see a cluster, or a bunch, of helium-filled balloons attached to an object such as a chair, a boat, or as I mentioned with Jonathan Trappe, a house. The pilot of this aircraft, so to speak, will sit in that object as they fly, or as they’re lifted off the ground with those helium balloons.

One story in particular we’re focusing on today is a man named Larry, who took flight in his lawn chair. A lawn chair, as you may know, is a light, foldable chair that you keep in your backyard. If you’re having a picnic, you might bring it to the park with you. But Larry took flight in his lawn chair; he attached his lawn chair to clusters of balloons, groups of balloons.

I hope you get a laugh from this true story, and you’ll have a crazy story to tell your friends at your next dinner party.

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"Lawn Chair" Larry's Lawn Chair at the National Air and Space Museum
"Lawn Chair" Larry's Lawn Chair at the National Air and Space Museum

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