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Experience the sights and sounds of the Festival of Balloons in Tigard!



Experience the sights and sounds of the Festival of Balloons in Tigard!

Watching the balloons launch is an unforgettable event for the whole family!

Weather and pilot permitting, the balloon ascension begins at 5:45 AM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. Come early and watch the teams assemble and inflate their crafts. Depending on weather conditions, most balloons launch by 7:00 AM. Typically balloons fly south toward Tualatin and do not return to the launch field at Cook Park. We do not offer any balloon rides during the Festival; however, following the balloon launches, the Festival offers FREE tethered rides on the main event field. Tethered rides are weather permitting as long as fuel lasts (approximately 2 hours). Rides are first come first serve and all riders must sign a waiver.

Did you know that it takes lots of volunteers to supply pre-flight & chase vehicle crews for the numerous balloons launching every morning at the Festival? Click here to find out more.


TICKETS WILL GO ON SALE THE FIRST WEEK OF JUNE. A 3 day-weekend pass is available in advance online for $5 (or at the gate for $8). This ticket is good for unlimited access to the Festival for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Kids 6 and under are free. 





The 3 main parts of a Hot Air Balloon are the Basket (or gondola), the Burner system, and the Envelope. There are other parts as shown in the example above. A 'Gore' is a section of fabric running from top to bottom of the envelope. In between Gores are 'load tapes' which carry the load of the balloon. Load tapes run both vertically and horizontally around the Envelope. Many balloons have two sections of fabric near the top of the envelope called 'Turning Vents'. The Pilot may activate either of the vents to cause the balloon to spin on it’s axis. When this happens, you the passenger are treated to a panoramic view of the area you are flying over. The narrow portion of the Envelope at the bottom is called the 'Throat' or 'Mouth'. Below that is a 'skirt' or 'scoop' which protects the burner flame from wind allowing it to blow straight up into the Envelope. The entire structure is called ‘A Hot Air Balloon System’.


Is a Hot Air Balloon an Aircraft?

Yes. A Hot Air Balloon is a type of Aircraft just as gliders, helicopters, seaplanes, fixed wing airplanes are also types of Aircraft

Are there rules?

Yes. First a Pilot must be trained to fly a Hot Air Balloon and then licensed by the FAA. Next the FAA writes the rules about how Aircraft may be flown. Balloon Pilots observe these ‘rules of the road’ just like Airline Pilots. In fact it’s the same rule book used by both.

How big are hot air balloons?

Balloons come in various sizes. The size is determined by the number of cubic feet of air that can be contained within the envelope. Sizes range from as small as 30,000 cubic feet or as large as over 300,000 cubic feet. Most have difficulty relating cubic feet to something they are familiar with. A basket ball or shoe box is about 1 cubic foot in size.

How are balloons maintained?

Pilots and Owners of Hot Air Balloons may perform some routine maintenance on their Aircraft, much like checking the air pressure or changing the oil in your vehicle. Maintenance requiring repair or disassembly of parts must be performed by licensed repair persons at licensed repair stations. The manufacturer of the Balloon determines what can be maintained by the Pilot and what must be performed by the Repair Station. In addition, the FAA determines the frequency in which all Balloons must undergo a complete inspection called an Annual Inspection.

Preparing for Flight

The balloon is prepared by spreading the envelope (the big fabric portion) out on the ground, with the basket attached to it and lying over on its side. A gasoline-powered fan is normally used to inflate the balloon with cold air until it is packed full, and then the propane burners are ignited to heat the balloon up. At this point, the balloon will slowly stand up, and then it's the ground crews' job to hold the basket down with their collective weight while the pilot continues his preflight checks and boards passengers. When all is ready to go, the pilot gives his crew the signal for "weight off," and with a few more blasts of the burner, takes to the sky!

So, how does all this work?

Basically, a balloon flies because the air inside the envelope is hotter than the air outside (known as ambient air). Although some people prefer more technical explanations, it really is that simple! The burners heat the air inside and allow the pilot to control the rate of ascent & descent. When it's time to come down, the pilot can either let the air in the envelope cool off on its own, or he can open a vent at the top of the balloon to let some air out - either way works. When it's time to land, the pilot will open the deflation port all the way to spill the air out the top and deflate the balloon. The balloon will then lie on its side and patiently wait to be packed up by the pilot and crew.

Who can fly a Balloon?

Well, anyone can fly in a balloon, but to fly one you must become an F.A.A. licensed balloon pilot. There are two levels of balloon pilot ratings. The first is a private pilot. The pilot must have at least 10 hours of flight time in free balloons; must pass a written test, oral test and flight check prior to being issued a private pilot’s license by the FAA. The second rating is a commercial pilot. The commercial pilot must have at least 35 hours of flight time in free balloons; must pass an additional written, oral and flight check prior to being issued a commercial pilot’s license by the FAA.

How do I become a pilot?

First "Official" thing to do is to apply for a Student Pilots' certificate which is needed to be able to make your solo flight and later flight tests with an examiner. To be a student pilot, you must be at least 14 years old and understand the English language, among other minor things. You might have already received and logged some ground and flight instruction at this point, but if not, what are you waiting for? The next phase is to find an instructor willing to teach you. Any commercial balloon pilot in the U.S. has the privileges of acting as balloon flight instructor, so there will be a number of pilots to help you get on your way. Training involves at least 10 hours of flight instruction, passing a written knowledge test, extensive ground instruction, and finally passing a flight examination with an F.A.A. inspector (also known as a Practical Test). Pass that, and you'll be granted your Private Pilot's Certificate for Hot Air Balloons! A private pilots' certificate allows you to take passengers up, but to be able to operate for hire, you must earn your Commercial hot air balloon pilots' certificate. This involves at least 35 hours of flight time and a much more stringent and demanding flight test.

How can I get involved?

Easy! Find a balloon pilot near you and give him or her a call or email. Most pilots will be delighted to have you come out and get involved the next time they go flying. The more help, the merrier!

What time of day do the flights take place?

Flights take place at sunrise and approximately 2 hours prior to sunset. Hot Air Balloons are not able to fly during the day due to thermal activity, which makes the air unstable.

What type of weather conditions are needed to fly in a Hot Air Balloon?

Hot Air Balloon passenger flights take place in winds less than 10 knots, with no rain or approaching storms in the immediate area. Flights also require visibility of at least 4 km.

How do Balloons fly?

Balloons operate through the basic principles of gravity and heat transfer. As air inside the balloon is heated, it rises. As the air inside the balloon cools, it descends. To make the balloon fly, an inflator fan fills it with cool air (cold packing), which is then heated by the balloons burners. When the air is warmed to the point it is able to lift the balloon, equilibrium is achieved.

Can you steer a balloon?

Winds determine a balloon’s direction. Balloonists can steer a balloon, to a limited extent, by adjusting the balloon’s altitude to make use of different wind speeds and directions. Balloons simply float with the wind. The pilot can control the balloon's altitude to find a wind going in the desired direction, but you cannot fly upwind or crosswind. Preflight planning insures the pilot knows which way the balloon will be traveling, and the pilot makes sure there are plenty of suitable landing sites downwind.

What fuel do balloons use?

Propane in stainless steel fuel tanks. Balloons frequently carry between 10 and 60 gallons onboard. This quantity of fuel permits the 1 to 1 ½ hour flights normally experienced with a sufficient reserve supply remaining.

Why do balloons fly in the early morning and late evening?

Winds are generally most favorable the first hours after sunrise and the last hours before sunset. The sun’s uneven heating of the earth’s surface causes strong, variable winds. In the morning, it takes a few hours for the sun to heat the earth’s surface enough to generate the thermal activity that creates wind. In the evening, the sun’s intensity has diminished enough to reduce winds to acceptable flight levels. Ideal winds are 3 to 6 mph.

How high do balloons fly?

From treetop level to 2,000 to 3,000 feet, depending on what the pilot is trying to accomplish. The world record in a balloon is over 32,000 feet!

How much does a balloon cost?

New balloons can vary in size and amenities. A smaller sport balloon can run around $13,000 to $25,000 and can carry a pilot and up to 3 passengers. Commercial ride balloons are much larger and can run as much as $70,000 to $80,000 new. In addition, there’s always the cost of equipment (fans, radios, trailers, chase vehicles, etc.) in addition to the cost of the balloon.

How long does it take to inflate and deflate the balloon?

A good ground crew can inflate and launch a balloon in fifteen minutes or less. It takes about the same amount of time to deflate and pack up the balloon after the flight.

Why is the angle of the sun important?

The sun is the source of wind, because it heats the earth unevenly. Sunlight falls directly on the equator, for example. The North Pole receives weaker, slanted rays of sunlight. Clouds may keep one area cool while another heats up. Water and land heat up at different rates. Hot air is lighter than cool air, so it rises. As hot air rises, cool air slides in to replace it. The result: wind. It isn't safe to fly during the daytime when different pockets of air are rising and falling.

How do you get back to where you started?

A chase crew follows along in a van or truck. The chase crew is in radio contact with the pilot, so they can be there when the balloon lands (or soon afterwards).

What are envelopes made of?

Rip-stop nylon is the most common material. Polyester and other fabrics are sometimes used. The lower portions around the opening are usually made from a fire resistant material like Nomex, similar to what race car drivers and firemen wear. What happens if a bird flies into a balloon?




During the Balloon Launches look for those people on the ground, wearing yellow shirts, running around like they’re lost, looking all around them and up into the sky like someone’s after them, making weird hand signals to the Balloon Pilots and talking on radios.

They are a very important part of the launch process. They are the Pilot’s eyes, making sure the airspace above is clear for the launch and that no other balloons are going to launch and interfere with their launch. In short they are the Traffic Cops.

Watch for them as they often are as entertaining to see as are the balloons launching. Also, don’t hesitate to thank them for their work; after they’re done of course.




2018 Pilot bios

Get the stories behind the balloons and learn a bit about the pilots who fly them. 2019 pilots to be announced soon!


bill baker


I began my ballooning career back in 1980. I travel worldwide handling corporate balloons, special shapes, and passenger flights for large ride operations. I have accumulated over 7,000 hours of flight time over my career, and still going strong. One of my most interesting commercial piloting jobs was operating a large ride balloon for Buddy Bombard in France and Spain, flying from and around the historic castles. This year I won the European Hot Air Balloon Championships, proving that age and experience can be an asset while competing against the younger, well sponsored, racers.



erik bogdanowicz

lighten up

I have been a pilot for 13 years and have 2 balloons. I have flown in most of the western states. Ballooning is a family event for us, and something I hope to pass down to our boys. We love to share our love for ballooning with as many people as we can.

Update: Unfortunately Erik will not be able to attend this year's Festival. 





john cavin

rocket the flying squirrel

After driving race cars for 10 years, I was looking for an inexpensive way to get the same thrill. That's when in 1979, I came upon Hot Air Balloon racing. It was an adventure from the beginning and I have been flying ever since. In 1996, I became the owner of one of the most unusual balloons on the planet. In fact, the balloon looks as if it came from another planet. After talking with Shep Wooley, the recording artist that wrote and sang the 1958 hit song, “Flying Purple People Eater", I knew I had a great name for his unique, eye-catching, balloon.  


laurie Cheatham


My ballooning experience started with a camera around 1986. Knowing that Albuquerque was the largest balloon festival in the world and the most photographed event in the world, I insisted that we go. We came home hooked on ballooning. Through a friend we started crewing for a local pilot. It was this pilot who encouraged me to get my pilot's license. In 1991 with the help of my dad, I purchased my first balloon and got my license. I eventually went on to get my commercial license and now own a fleet of three balloons. I have found ballooning to be challenging, rewarding and peaceful all at once. I never tire of sharing the sport with new people and have made some great friends over the years.



fred dinkler

carried away

Recruited as a teenager to chase balloons in Iowa in the summer of 1970, by the luck of the draw, I was assigned to chase David Schaeffer and Bruce Comstock, legendary pioneers in hot air ballooning. Thereafter, I began a life-long passionate pursuit of aviation. After graduating college in 1976, I was commissioned an Officer in the United States Marine Corps, and for the next ten years flew as an Attack Helicopter Commander. Leaving the Marines in 1985, I built a successful career in technology consulting across the globe, while continuing to build lasting friendships in the balloon community. My Crew Chief for Life, Christel, and I travel the US as full-time RVers.


david dunrud

terry mouse

I grew up around the sport of ballooning. My aunt has been flying balloons for over 35 years and she sparked my interest at the age of two. At age 11 I started crewing for balloons and at the age of 14 I received my student certificate…and the rest is history. I’m currently 32 and a commercial pilot. I enjoy sharing this one of a kind experience with others and creating a lasting memory they’ll never forget. When I’m not in the air, I’m servicing my community as a Firefighter EMT.



Cheryl isaacs

la brisa del mar

In 1996 I started crewing for a large balloon company in the valley and absolutely loved it. In 1999 I decided to learn how to fly so I started training with a couple friends and we bought our first balloon together. I became a private pilot in 1999 and passed my commercial in 2000. I fly commercially with Vista Balloons in Newberg, Oregon and can fly up to a 140K with passengers. I also travel with my own balloon to various rallies every year and really enjoy the social events and the flying.


dale justice

la jolla

I have been around hot air balloons for over 30 years. I never gave up the dream of being a pilot. I have had my own balloon since 2007 and have flown around the Willamette Valley and at dozens of balloon rallies in the Northwest. I have my commercial certificate and in 2015 received the "Aeronaut of the Year" award from the Willamette Aerostat Society. To me, giving others the thrill of flying in a balloon is a great pleasure. Often, it is their first flight, and one they will always remember.



ernie lesley

alternate universe

I took my first balloon ride in Anchorage, AK and was instantly hooked on ballooning. I returned to Portland and began working as a ground crew member for Greg Ashton and Kong Shields at Oregon Balloon Adventures, and John Cox at Northwest Aviation. After obtaining my commercial rating I flew as the chief pilot for Northwest Aviation doing scenic flights and giving flight instruction. I have been flying since 1986. My wife Becky is my crew chief. I love taking people for their first flight by balloon and sharing a unique experience. When we are not flying, my wife Becky and I work as Senior Paramedics in the Multnomah County 911 EMS in the Portland Metro area.



jack loflin


My first stab at piloting was when I was 6 years old. It was a small “line controlled” airplane with a 13-inch wingspan. No passengers! At age 18 I started flying “real” airplanes. Over the last 19 years, I have logged over 5,000 hours flying various aircraft. Although I started with airplanes, I now also fly helicopters, gliders and hot air balloons. I hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and I am a certified flight instructor for airplanes, helicopters and balloons. My day job is as an airplane and helicopter test pilot.


koh murai


I am predominantly a sport flyer, but also provide some instruction. I also enjoy aerostat construction with my first effort an AX-5. One of my other joys in LTA aviation is working on, executing and helping others with the technical and operational aspects of long distance, long duration and high-altitude flights. Weather, meteorology and forecasting are also areas of constant interest to me. Yet time spent aloft is still the biggest thrill after all these years. The people you meet and become involved with are also a great reward and asset for participating in this sport.



jesse rafn


I have been involved in the ballooning community since 1992, when my dad took me to my first balloon rally. The passion for ballooning “took off” when I was able to get a balloon ride with a local Portland pilot at the age of 6. Ballooning has been a central factor in my life for as long as I can remember, and I knew that I needed to become a pilot as soon as I could. I received my private license in 2005 and followed it up with my commercial license in 2011. Ballooning has given me so many amazing opportunities, and it’s something I hope to be able to do for many years to come.


Robert raper

fallen angels

I received my commercial pilot certificate in 1996 and I fly an average of 6 events a year. I own and operate High Plains Drifter Hot Air Balloons , LLC based out of Miles City, Montana. I am a retired federal employee of 36 years.


chris sabia

wonder bread

I started my ballooning career by taking a ride. I have been ballooning for 30 years and I met my wife Amanda on a balloon ride. We travel the country together flying for a great company, Wonder Bread.



alan sanderson

high hopes

I got my start as crew for some coworkers in the 1980s. I earned my commercial pilot certificate in 1992 in the Morgan Hill and Gilroy area south of San Jose, California, and have flown over 880 hours in balloons. I have flown many events in the Western US, including Albany and Tigard, OR. I hold a FAA repairman certificate, and I own Lindan Hot Air Service Center in Albany, the only FAA hot air balloon repair station in Oregon. I have received factory maintenance training on most major balloon brands, and I can repair almost all brands, including some experimental balloons.



chris whitfield

heaven bound

I took my first hot air balloon ride in September 2007 with Alan Sanderson and was immediately hooked. I purchased my first balloon the following spring with my uncle, Jason Fast, and began training with Marianne LeDoux. I got my private license in September 2008 and continued sharing a balloon with Jason through 2009. I flew my second balloon during 2010 and, with instruction from Carmen Blakely, achieved a commercial rating in October. In the spring of 2011, I and my wife, Jennifer, built our current balloon, Heaven Bound, with guidance from Bob and Marianne LeDoux. We live in the Albany area and I am the Balloonmeister for the Northwest Art and Air Festival.



bill woodhead

his sky

I have been a pilot of over 45 years in airplanes and balloons and I have amassed over 3600 hours as Pilot in Command. I have flown balloons in most of the states in USA as well as Canada, Israel, Kenya and New Zealand..


mark yonker

tom cat

I have had an interest in aviation, since I was a child. I have always enjoyed gliders, kites, sailboats and blimps and airships. This led to my interest in ballooning. I saw my first balloon in Alaska in 1977 and started crewing. I eventually learned to fly and received my private pilot license in 1980. In 1983 I received my commercial license, and eventually, I spent 10 years flying corporate balloons around the USA. My favorite place to fly is Lake Tahoe, CA. I have ballooned in 43 states, including Alaska.

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Pilot Registration

Pilot Registration

Pilots, come join the fun at the Festival of Balloons in Tigard

June 21 - 23rd, 2019

The field of 25 balloons is expected to fill quickly, so to be assured a spot, get your registration submitted soon. Festival launches begin at 5:45 am. Mandatory pilot briefings will start at 5:15 am each morning.

Friday and Saturday Night Glows are optional and pilots are encouraged to help us 'fill the field.'  The times for the night glows will be announced during our morning pilot briefings.

Pilots will be asked to fly 2 VIP passengers during the Festival.

Paid rides will not be available, nor will pilots be allowed to carry passengers other than VIP passengers or friends and crew once they have checked in with the Festival and completed the Flight Waiver Form.

A hotel room for 3 nights, propane for all flights (and tethers and night glows), and show up stipend are all provided.