as told by Captain Dave
My wife, Jody, and I first saw hot air balloons at the Jamesville balloon festival in 1981 and decided – even before we went for a ride – that we should buy one. We jumped into ballooning so quickly that I had a commercial pilot’s license (mine is for balloons only, but it’s still issued by the F.A.A.) and flew my very own first balloon at the 1982 Jamesville festival. Now, as I write this in 2020, history in the making as I soon embark on my 2,000th flight.
My wife doesn’t pilot the balloon, but she’s gone for hundreds of rides, and has been part of the chase crew for hundreds of other flights. She chases fewer and fewer flights as we both get older and I try to get other younger chasers and more of them. Jody’s official job title now is “Emergency Back-up Chaser.” But she’s always ready to hop into the basket.
And we both think buying that first balloon was one of the very best decisions we ever made.
I did most of my flying in the Red Creek, Wolcott, Fair Haven, Sodus, Butler, Savannah, Cato area where we had lived since 1974. We moved to Auburn in 2014. Now I have launch sites in and around Skaneateles, Weedsport, Auburn, Marcellus and Conquest. If you see a balloon in that area now, it’s probably me … because, while there used to be another balloon pilot in Auburn and another one in Skaneateles, they both retired from ballooning.
As an FAA certified commercial balloon pilot, I’m also qualified to train others to fly. I’m particularly pleased that five people who took their first rides with me have gone on to buy their own balloons and that I taught them to fly.
Each year I attend an F.A.A. certified safety seminar for balloons.
Any balloon I fly has to be thoroughly inspected by an F.A.A. licensed aircraft mechanic every year.
The balloon I’ll be flying in 2020 is being made at the time I’m writing this. It’ll be delivered by May of 2020. At that time an aircraft mechanic will perform the annual inspection of the balloon and basket, and an official from the F.A.A. will meet with us to issue a Standard Airworthiness Certificate. I believe my new balloon will be able to stay in the air longer than my previous balloons.
In my mind, getting the brand-new beautiful balloon in 2020 commits me to 10-12 more years of flying.
I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of it.