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Aw: Nanny state squashes future dreams of lawn-chair balloonist


All Kent Couch wanted to do was fly around in a lawn chair suspended from party balloons. But the Oregon man made famous by his numerous aerial ventures now says that the high price of helium and licensing requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration may permanently ground him -- at least in the U.S.

The Star Tribunereports:

Bend gas station owner and craft beer seller Kent Couch said helium costs five times what it did when he made his first flight in 2006.

And the FAA fined him $4,500 in February for his July 14, 2012, tandem flight with Iraqi adventurer Fareed Lafta. The fine was reported Monday by The Bend Bulletin.

"We need them," Couch said of the agency. "But they certainly dampened my spirit of flying."

The FAA says Couch and Lafta flew without pilot's licenses, failed to register the lawn chairs as an aircraft, failed to have the contraption certified as airworthy, and were careless and reckless when the balloon took off without them after they landed in a farm field.

Couch says the FAA agreed to reduce the fine from $5,500 to $4,500 after he talked to its lawyer. He said he paid the fine by certified check in February or March with money he received from a sponsor. [...]

"I'll never regret doing those flights, based just on the great sense of being able to fly through the air like a cloud," Couch said.

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