We're excited that Daniel Sasser is a licensed hot air balloon pilot and Madison Sharpe is a student approved to fly solo as he finishes his training. Congratulations to both! It's exciting for us to see young pilots embracing this sport.
You didn't know that balloon pilots have to be licensed? Yes, and it takes many hours of both classroom work and supervised flying to make sure they have mastered the skills and are ready to be certified to fly.
There are schools where some pilots go to train, but the vast majority trade their services as crew to local commercial pilots for instruction time. This means a lot of hours need to be dedicated to the task and they have to really want to learn to fly.
It was in June that I was able to be Daniel's first non-pilot passenger. Would that scare you? It didn't me. I had confidence in the pilots who had taught him (some of the best in the country), I knew how seriously Daniel had taken the training, and I also knew he understood the responsibility of being a pilot with passengers.
We had a wonderful ride in the eastern part of the county and a perfect landing. Some folks saw us flying in the air over their house and when they saw we couldn't land in their neighborhood, they put their children in their car and joined our chase crew in following the balloon. They watched the landing and even lended a hand when we were packing the balloon up. The neighbors in the Spring Forest neighborhood welcomed us with open arms. It's fun when the landowners make landing an impromptu party!
These won't be the last new pilots you see in this area. Others are in training now. Two of our young people who crew for pilots in the area, Duncan Dunavent and Tyler Ayers, attended the Great Eastern Balloon Camp this summer. You just may see these guys as pilots at BalloonFest in future years.
Balloonmeister Sam Parks requires that pilots that fly at Carolina BalloonFest have 100 solo hours under their belt. Those who fly passengers for money must be licensed commercially, with additional training that goes beyond the private pilot's license.
Thinking about taking a flight at Carolina BalloonFest? Check out the Pilots & Balloons page on our where you will find contact information for those pilots who are booking passengers during the event. Flights are $225 per person.
On The Breeze ~
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