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Lawn-chair balloonist to fly in Iraq

BEND, Ore., Nov. 3 (UPI) -- A Bend, Ore., man known for traveling 235 miles in a lawn chair lifted by balloons is planning a two-man journey over Baghdad.

Kent Couch, a Bend gas-station owner, was contacted by Fareed Lafta, known as the Iraqi "superhero," about the flight in Iraq, KTVZ-TV, Bend, reported.

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"I got an e-mail from a guy that looked at our Web site, and he said he was wanting to do this to help the Iraqi youth," Couch said Wednesday.

Couch and Lafta came up with the idea to do a double-chair launch and break more records Nov. 15, during the Youth Talent Conference in the "Green Zone" of Baghdad.

"We're going to have two guys on one platform," Couch said. "So we'll have two lawn chairs connected, and we'll launch with twice as many balloons."

Couch said they will travel 400 miles at 25,000 feet, with oxygen tanks, breaking his elevation record.

He said he has one fear -- inadvertently floating into Iran.

"The fear is if we drift to Iran, which is only about 85 miles from Baghdad -- and if we were to get a wind blowing west, we would just have to go up and come back down, because I'm not going to gamble being in Iran for very long," Couch said.

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Couch was scheduled to leave for Baghdad Thursday with his wife and a Bend filmmaker who is to document the event.

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