The History of Kent Couch – The World Record Cluster Balloonist
- September 18, 2006 – First cluster balloon ride (Bend, Oregon to Brothers, Oregon)
- July 7, 2007 – Second cluster balloon ride (Bend, Oregon to La Grande, Oregon)
- July 5, 2008 – Third cluster balloon flight (Bend, Oregon to Cambridge, Idaho)
- October 10, 2009 – John Freis’ first cluster balloon ride (California)
- July 24, 2010 – Fourth cluster balloon flight. First cluster balloon race
- July 14, 2012 – Fifth cluster balloon flight. First with Captain Fareed Abdul-Zahra al Saadi
Kent Couch, devoted husband, father of five and gas station owner, seems like just another man but underneath the surface, you’ll find a characteristic not quite normal. While most men have a passion for sports or hunting, Kent has a passion for cluster ballooning, much to the chagrin of his supportive wife, Susan.
July 7, 2007, when Kent took his second cluster balloon flight, he and his family never imagined that it would captivate the world. Just a simple childhood dream to Kent, the nation viewed it as a heroic feat. In a world of depressing news, Kent’s story of having a dream and achieving it was inspiring to say the least.
Although Kent achieved many things in his first and second cluster balloon flights, he still is not satisfied. The goal for the second flight had been to arrive in Boise, Idaho but as Kent approached La Grande, Oregon he only had eight pounds of ballast left. This equation was too risky when attempting to cross Hells Canyon and other treacherous upcoming terrain. Forced to make a quick decision, Kent got close to the ground and tumbled into a wheat field for a rough landing. Unfortunately, the lawn chair and balloons where too much for Kent to hold onto and he was forced to let go. Go to our 2007 flight page for more details.
The fact that Kent had survived the flight and flew farther in a cluster balloon than any other human being (setting a world record) was extraordinary. But when Kent was forced to let go of the lawn chair while evacuating, he lost his video camera and with it the in-flight footage. Almost a year later, Kent received a call from the Baker City Sheriff claiming that his lawn chair had been found by a ranching couple checking their fence line. Kent traveled to Baker City to present the couple with the $500 reward and to pick up his long-lost equipment. Luckily, Kent had placed his video equipment into a bag which preserved the equipment through this year’s harsh Eastern, Oregon winter.
Almost immediately after his second flight, Kent wanted to go back up again. In fact, in the video recovered from his second flight, he confessed to the camera that he was really enjoying himself and hoped Susan would allow him to do it again. While being interviewed by a Portland radio station, Kent announced that he was planning his next flight for July 5, 2008, weather permitting.
After Kent’s announcement, he appeared on Good Morning America to speak with Diane Sawyer about his 2007 flight and his impending 2008 flight. Susan Couch told Diane Sawyer, “You can’t let a good man stay down.” So on July 5th, Kent planned to break his record and make it to Boise, Idaho. He had a few things up his sleeve, including more balloons and a new ballast/chair configuration.
Kent launched from his Stop & Go gas station in Bend, Oregon at 6:44am on Saturday, July 5, 2008. Kent and his flight crew arrived at 4:00am to inflate the balloons and prepare for the flight. His landing in Cambridge, Idaho set a new world record for cluster ballooning. For the full details of the flight, visit our 2008 flight story page.
For any more information, feel free to contact us!