FAA Investigating Balloon-Boy Case; Balloon Dad Prepares for Apocalypse

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According to reports on Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration is now conducting its own investigation of Richard Heene’s report last week that his 6-year-old son might be aboard a runaway helium balloon. The balloon flew about 50 miles and caused flight delays before it landed. The allegedly flying boy, ironically named “Falcon,” was later found in his attic at home.

Local authorities have said that they think Heene and his wife intentionally made a false report hoping to get publicity that might eventually lead to a reality-show contract. (That seems like a pretty good bet, considering what Balloon Boy blurted out on national television: “You guys said we did this for the show.”) According to people who watch reality shows, the Heenes appeared twice on something called “Wife Swap,” and they have allegedly been working to try to get their own show for several months without success.

The lawyer for Robert Thomas, an associate of Richard Heene who says he helped the latter develop various ideas for a TV show, said she thought Heene had become obsessed with a quest for TV fame. Maybe not for its own sake, she said, but so that he could make a lot of money in a hurry in order to prepare for the upcoming end of the world. Heene “believes the world is going to end in 2012,” said Thomas’s attorney, Linda Lee. “Because of that, he wanted to make money quickly, become rich enough to build a bunker or something underground, where he can be safe from the sun exploding.”

Some people do believe that the world may end in 2012, based on their interpretation of the ancient Mayan calendar, numerology, theories about geomagnetic reversal, and other assorted bullshit. Whether Heene actually believes that is hard to say, given his alleged inclination to make stuff up. The Mayans don’t believe it, and it’s their calendar:

If I went to some Mayan-speaking communities [said Mayan archaeologist Jose Huchm] and asked people what is going to happen in 2012, they wouldn’t have any idea. That the world is going to end? They wouldn’t believe you. We have real concerns these days, like rain.

An FAA spokesperson would not discuss its investigation, except to note that the agency investigates civil allegations, not criminal charges. The local sheriff is taking care of that, saying he is considering felony charges against the Heenes for the false report and related offenses, and that he also wanted to make them reimburse the county for the costs of the unnecessary balloon chase.