The news event that has captured the attention of the world today surrounds a 6-year-old named Falcon Heene from Fort Collins, CO. Falcon’s father, Richard Heene, is a “storm-chaser” and built an experimental aircraft which was essentially a homemade helium balloon. One of Falcon’s older brothers reported seeing Falcon getting into the gondola attached to the balloon and setting it loose from his parents’ home. The escaped weather balloon soared 7,000 feet over eastern Colorado, prompting attention from the FAA and local police (who were following it via car on the ground), as well as various news helicopters which were following it in the air.
While Falcon supposedly went up with the balloon, he wasn’t with it when it made a soft landing in a field near Keenesburg (Weld County)– about 60 miles by road from Fort Collins– more than an hour and a half after the balloon took off. Reports out of 9News in Denver show a photo taken by a neighbor which appears to show an object falling from the balloon as it soared over Fort Collins. The box was also not found with the downed balloon craft.
The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said the “homemade flying saucer” was made of plywood and string and was never intended for flight.
Falcon’s parents, science enthusiasts Richard and Mayumi Heene, were featured on the 100th episode of ABC’s prime-time program “Wife Swap” in March. According to the network’s Web site, the Heene family “devote their time to scientific experiments that include looking for extraterrestrials and building a research-gathering flying saucer to send into the eye of the storm.” CNN iReport has a video of the Heene family, identified as storm chasers, shooting the eye of Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Richard, Mayumi and their three boys Bradford (9), Ryo (7) and Falcon (5) –their ages at the time– are part of that adventure.
While I’ve seen numerous mentions to the obvious comparisons to the movie UP on Twitter and Facebook, we can now only hope that the outcome of Falcon’s adventure is as happy as a Pixar movie ending. As my friend Gil Asakawa (who lives in Denver) said when it all started, “Either this kid will be on the Today Show tomorrow morning, or the story will end in tregedy.” Here’s hoping for that it’s the former and not the latter.
Photo: Frank’s Funnies