Date: Mon, 28 Apr 97 09:01:13 -0500
From: Miranda Barrows 

I apologize for the long enclosure this week - but I thought this story 
was so amusing that I'd just go ahead and include all of it.  For those 
who are too busy for such frivolity, just remember to leave time to grab 
some hot liquid and a toroid at the usual time and place this morning.  



   A FAILED pilot who took to the air in a garden chair strapped to 45
   weather balloons has won the 1997 Darwin Award for "outstanding
   contributions to natural selection through self-sacrifice".

   Larry Walters, one of the few winners to survive his award-winning
   accomplishment, brought Los Angeles to a standstill in July 1982 when
   he decided to realise his dream to fly.

   Having been disqualified from the US Air Force because of poor
   eyesight, he became frustrated at watching jets fly over his back
   garden. He bought the heavy-duty balloons, each more than four feet
   across when inflated, and several tanks of helium from an Army-Navy
   surplus store. He attached the balloons to a garden chair he had
   anchored to his Jeep.

   After testing the machine to make sure it could fly, he planned to
   spend the afternoon sunning himself 30ft above his girlfriend's garden
   in San Pedro, California. He made sandwiches and loaded on board a
   six-pack of Miller Lite and some Coca-Cola. He filled water balloons
   for ballast and loaded his airgun so that he could burst them to

   Then, taking his Timex watch and a two-way radio, he tied himself to
   the chair, loosened the rope and rose into the air. Within seconds, he
   passed the 30ft altitude he had hoped to reach, quickly rising to
   100ft and then 1,000ft. He eventually levelled off at 11,000ft,
   frightened to shoot any of the balloons in case he unbalanced his
   makeshift aircraft.

   For 14 hours he floated above the city, cold and frightened, before
   drifting into the primary approach corridor of Los Angeles
   international airport.

   Fortunately, both a United Airlines and a Pan Am flight passed him and
   radioed air traffic control to say they had spotted a man with a gun
   at 11,000ft on a garden chair.

   Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating 11,000 feet above
   the airport. Emergency procedures swung into full alert and a
   helicopter was scrambled. However, as night fell offshore breezes blew
   Mr Walters out to sea.

   Wind from the helicopter blades blew the balloon further away, forcing
   the crew to position themselves several hundred feet above him. A rope
   was then lowered for Mr Walters to grab and the helicopter towed him
   to safety.

   Mr Walters was arrested by the Los Angeles police for invading Los
   Angeles International Airport airspace. He later told reporters: "A
   man can't just sit around."

   The stunt cost the former lorry driver =A31,000 in a settlement with 
   Federal Aviation Administration, which said he operated too close to
   the airport, flew in a reckless manner and failed to maintain contact
   with the control tower. "I only did it because it was my lifelong
   dream of flight," he said.

   Mr Walters was later approached by Timex, which featured him in an
   advertising campaign about ordinary people facing unusual obstacles.

   The 1997 Darwin Award is the first to be given to someone some time
   after they have committed the act that has gained them notoriety.
   Normally, it is given to someone who has "benefited the gene pool" by
   killing themselves in the most extraordinarily stupid way before

   The 1996 award went to a man who embedded himself in a cliff after
   strapping himself to a solid fuel rocket normally used to give heavy
   military transport aircraft assistance when taking off from short
   runways. In 1995, a man won the award after he died when he pulled a
   Coca-Cola machine on top of himself in an attempt to gain a free

   Mr Walters, who did volunteer work for the US Forest Service after his
   release, died on Oct 6, 1996, said his mother. "He would want to be
   remembered as the lawn chair pilot," she said at her home in Mission
   Viejo, California.