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!
On The Breeze ~
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