Pilot Bubba Winston is retired now, but when he was working he just may have been someone you loved to hate! Bubba served as a football referee for the NCAA for 37 years. He worked two national championship football games. Bubba also was commissioner of high school footballs for ten years in Virginia. But what we like best about Bubba is he is a great balloon pilot headed to spend the weekend with us at Carolina BalloonFest!
We also have the announcer for the Carolina Hurricanes piloting here this weekend. Brian Hoyle is also the voice of the PNC Arena in Raleigh. He says his most memorable flight was his first he took when he was dating his wife Amanda, with her dad as the pilot.
If you think that perhaps that you may like to learn to fly a hot air balloon, maybe you better talk to Beth Wright-Smith. Beth runs one of only five FAA approved pilot training schools in the country. She has trained over 300 students. Beth will be piloting the Wells Fargo Balloon this weekend.
Ray Smith needed Beth way back when. He bought his first balloon without knowing how to fly it or even how to get licensed. His brother-in-law talked him into going in halves with him on a used system he had found, but the brother-in-law backed out of the deal later on. Ray figured it all out, bought out his brother-in-law's share of the balloon, and got himself licensed to fly.
Tony Colburn's met his wife Claire when he was a corporate sponsor at a balloon rally and she was the pilot who flew him during a corporate flight. He learned to fly soon after! His most interesting flight? A winter flight where he landed on an icy pond and slid his way across!
Tony's not the only one who met his mate through ballooning. Mark Fritze says his first balloon ride was in 1979, which was particularly memorable because that was where he met his significant other Gayle. Mark claims he was more interested in girls than balloons at that time, so it wasn't until five years later when he helped a balloonist rescue his balloon from a light pole, that his interest was really piqued. That balloonist taught him to fly and he got his license in 1993.
Mike Goodman lives in Florida now, but really is a local guy who took his first solo flight (which he says was his most memorable) from the Rhyne Aerodrome in Love Valley in 1981. Mike's whole career has been in aviation. He was an Army helicopter pilot, flew F-16s in the Air Force, and is currently an airline pilot.
Charles Page is another local who will be flying at BalloonFest. Charles lives in the Cool Spring community and can be seen flying around Statesville quite often. His most memorable balloon flight was a midnight launch on New Year's Eve in 1999. He launched at 11:59 p.m. and flew solo to Jack's Mountain, Virginia. He landed 40 minutes before sunrise on New Year's Day.
Jack Ponticelli is the sales manager for Firefly Balloons, the hot air balloon factory located in Statesville. He's also a truffle farmer. He has great memories of flying over the base of the Alps.
Bill Whidden once led two other pilots flying into the gorge of Niagara Falls. He crossed Goat Island, dropped right in front of the famous "Horseshoe Falls" and topped out over the Minolta Tower.
But it may be a bit difficult to beat Tom Roush's most memorable flight....or was it his most memorable dream? The jury is till out. But Tom says he once landed in a nudist camp in the midst of a women's volleyball game. Always able to think on his feet, Tom compensated for interrupting the game by giving free tethered rides.
And that's our pilots....always thinking of others! Come out and meet them this weekend at Carolina BalloonFest. They are, if anything, interesting people to get to know!
This is the 41st balloon festival in Statesville, and who has been at each and every one? Pilot Don Cline, from Greensboro, NC. Such an interesting man. Don's been involved in aviation since he became a fixed wing pilot in the 50s. He got involved in ballooning in the 70s. He has been involved in hot air and gas ballooning as a pilot, observer, safety officer and competitive director. He has been an FAA designated flight examiner, responsible for the certification of other pilots. He's been presented one of aviation's highest honors, the Certificate of Honor from the National Aeronautic Association for helping advance aviation and space flight. Don was presented his award in 1991 in a ceremony in DC at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Don not only flies the skies, he studies them. He founded the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, located near Brevard. He continues to serve as its president. Love the stars, skies and the idea of flight? Find Don during BalloonFest and start up a conversation!
But Don's not the only ballooning legend we'll have on hand. Al Nels is a two-time world champion, and a two-time national champion. Al actually taught the late TV news legend Walter Cronkite how to fly. His son AJ, an aerospace engineer, will also be flying at BalloonFest. AJ says his favorite flight was flying alongside his dad at nationals. Watch both of the Nels men as competition heats up this weekend.
And they'll get some great competition from pilot Chase Donner. Keep an eye on him. He always competes well. He was the 2012 National Champion, yet he says his most memorable flight was not him flying, but watching his brother Nick fly to win a World Championship! We'll miss seeing Nick fly here this year, but are always happy to have Chase flying our skies.
You never know when the young ones will sneak up on you! DJ Stukas, a senior at Clemson University, was the Balloon Federation of America's Rookie of the Year in 2013 and will be competing this weekend. He says his most memorable flight was flying the balloon "Miss Daisy" in Taiwan, where there was nothing but pineapple fields. We think his landings may be a little softer around Statesville, but you never know!
Greg Miller has been the Balloon Federation of America's long jump champion two times, but says his best flight was his very first after getting his pilot license, when he finally got to fly his wife Sherry.
Some of our pilots have flown gas balloons as well as hot air, and have had some very long flights. Stuart Enloe's most memorable flight was from Albuquerque to Saskatchewan, Canada....1,763 miles in 63 hours! Shane Robinson is a former national gas balloon champion who once flew 1,657 miles from Denver to Vermont. We think their hot air flights around Iredell County may be a bit shorter....or at least we hope so. Our goal is to keep them around Iredell County skies!
Come out this weekend and see which pilots will go the distance in our competition flights. While everything is subject to change, usually you can expect the pilots to fly to targets located on the field on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Sunday should especially be a great sight to see, as the 2nd Annual Carolina BalloonFest 5k and Kids Fun Run takes place. Runners will take to the course as the balloons fly over them. Definitely a unique experience. If you haven't signed up to run yet, you still have time. Check out their website at http://www.racingtoes.com/carolina-balloonfest-5k-and-kids-fun-run/.
Oh, how we love our Carolina BalloonFest pilots! We are a bit partial, but we think that they are some of the most fun and interesting people you are ever going to meet. Here are a few fun facts about some of those who will be with us next weekend, mostly volunteered by them.
We have to start with Mitch Miller, from Warsaw, IN, because the man knows how to entertain us when he fills out an information form! Possibly having toddler twins has perfected his nonsense talk. Mitch is still quite proud of the fact that his senior class voted him as having the most beautiful eyes (Class of 1999.) Perhaps we will run a contest during BalloonFest and see if Mitch can keep that title when in competition with all of our other pilots.
Mitch also claims he offers "Fantasy Flights" where he flies passengers wearing only his speedo. He confesses no one has ever actually purchased one of these Fantasy Flights. We're thinking maybe they should, but possibly we better check with our Balloonmeister to see if it is CBF-appropriate. If you happen to see a guy in a speedo, though, that looks like he may know a thing or two about flying a balloon say hi to Mitch. And let us know so we have a camera ready,
We have some other funny guys who will be hanging out with us. Buddies Kenny Shumate and Grant "Mr. Wonderful" Aiello are always entertaining us. Both are former firefighters at Walt Disney World and both have also attended clown college. They need no makeup.....they always make us laugh. Kenny actually flew Michael Jackson one time. As he says "the real one". You will have to find him to tell you the story! And Grant. He was named "Bell Ringer of the Year" in Iceland. We believe that is called international acclaim.
We call David Bristol "Captain" now....he was recently named a captain with US Airways, the new American Airlines. David was interested in ballooning from a young age. When he was 13 he built a balloon from scrap fabric and parts from his parent's barbeque grill.....and it flew! His balloon materials have become a bit more upscale over the years, but his mother Martha is still his supportive crew chief!
Sally Mazzocchi is a second generation balloon pilot. She's been flying for 10 years. She was recently engaged to another Carolina BalloonFest pilot Matt Lidinsky. Matt took his first flight at age seven and has been a pilot for twelve years. Sally is a music festival producer. Matt sells cheese. Hmmmm....we don't know what kind, but maybe you better find him and ask him.
Jonathan Carter says he plays with electrical lines for a living... he's a lineman. He started in ballooning at age 14 and has been flying 15 years. Jonathan has a special place in his heart for balloon rallies. He met his wife at one!
These are a few of our pilots. We do have a few characters headed our way! We'll tell you about more in the next few days. If you want to take a look at the balloons and pilots that are coming to our festival or are thinking about booking a ride, check out the Pilots and Hot Air Balloons page on our website carolinaballoonfest.com.
So how do hot air balloon pilots know where to land? Sometimes they don't! They spend a lot of time looking for a place that will be sufficient for a safe landing.
What pilots are looking for is a space large enough to land and pack up their balloon, a place their chase vehicle and chase crew can access easily, few obstructions to make landing difficult (power lines that aren't in the way, no livestock to disrupt, no debris or obstacles that can make for a difficult landing). And friendly landowners, that makes for gold!
We love folks like the Lippards. They heard that laying out a white sheet is the sign to pilots that balloonists are welcome on their property and last year had their white sheet out starting during our media flight on Friday morning. Pilot Jeff Sweet saw that sheet Friday and went in for his landing. He didn't quite make the white sheet, but landed nearby. The Lippards greeted Jeff and his passenger (me!) warmly and went off to direct the chase crew where to find us. How great to land knowing you are welcome! How fun to land and be greeted by smiles and kindness.
On The Breeze ~
Festival news about
Rain or Shine... Carolina BalloonFest is open October 20-22, 2017!
Hot Air Balloon Flights are scheduled twice daily; early morning & late afternoon. All ballooning activities including static display, tethered rides and balloon flights are weather dependent. The decision to inflate hot air balloons is made just prior to the scheduled ballooning activity. Due to limited entrance points into our festival, guests are encouraged to purchase advance tickets and plan to PARK by 1 PM to attend late afternoon launches. Tickets are non-refundable.
National Balloon Rally Charities, Inc. is an incorporated 501(c)(3) charitable organization and all contributions are tax deductible. A portion of proceeds raised through Carolina BalloonFest and Carolina Roots MusicFest is distributed to local nonprofit organizations. PO Box 267 ~ Statesville NC 28687