He had always wanted to fly. His dream was to be a pilot in the US Air Force. Poor eyesight kept him grounded. When he was a young teenager, he came up with an idea to use weather balloons, having seen some in a military surplus store. It took him twenty years but he put his idea into action.
On July 2, 1982, he attached 45 helium-filled weather balloons to a lawn chair in his backyard. Aided by his girlfriend and other friends, he prepared for flight. Strapping a parachute on and carrying a pellet gun, Larry Waiters, with a CB radio, sandwiches, and beer on board, was ready for launch. With his creation tied by a stout cord to his Jeep, he gave his friends the signal to cut the cord. Lift off!
It didn’t take Larry long to figure out that the balloons were working just fine. In a matter of a few minutes, his home-made flying machine had soared to about 15,000 feet. He was hesitant to use his pellet gun as he went higher and higher, fearing that he might unbalance the load and fall out.
Floating from his point of origin in San Pedro, California, he drifted toward Long Beach and found himself in the flight path of Los Angeles International Airport. Using his CB radio, he contacted a monitoring outfit about his predicament. His message: “Ah, the difficulty is, ah, this was an unauthorized balloon launch, and, uh, I know I’m in federal airspace, and, uh, I’m sure my ground crew has alerted the proper authority. But, uh, just call them and tell them I’m okay.”
45 minutes into his wayward flight, Larry decided to shoot some balloons. After deflating several, he dropped his pellet gun. Losing altitude slowly, he got hung in some power lines – causing a 20-minute blackout in a nearby neighborhood. The police were waiting for him, not exactly sure how to charge him for his ill-fated journey. Lawn Chair Larry had his day in the news and in the courts.
At Wieuca, we have been dreaming big, too. While there are no weather balloons involved, we do have a plan. Last fall, our church adopted a three-year Strategic Plan and approved a budget for the first year. This Sunday we have planned lunch together and a time to revisit the plan and look ahead. You don’t have to bring a lawn chair or a pellet gun, but I do hope you will join us as we present information about working the plan. What have we invested? What have we gained? What have we learned? What do we do next? We will follow our regular morning schedule and then move to the Peachtree Room for lunch and the presentation.