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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 permitting, the balloon ascension will be from 5:45 AM - 6:15 AM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. Come early and watch the teams assemble and inflate their crafts. Stay afterwards to experience some of the other events throughout the day.

We do not offer any balloon rides during the festival.

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.


A 3 day-weekend pass is available at the gate for $7 OR purchase in advance online for $5. 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 striped outfits, 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.

They wear striped shirts, so they will be easily seen by the Pilots. Because they really enjoy what they do, they often augment their uniforms in unique ways.

Because of the striped outfits, the Launch Directors are known among the ballooning community as “Zebras”. 

Often you will see another zebra tagging along. They are training to become Zebras and are known as Zebras in Training or ZITs.

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.




Pilot bios

Get the stories behind the balloons and learn a bit about the pilots who fly them.

Darren Kling


From a very young age I’ve always had a strong interest in aviation. In 1989, I took my first ride in a balloon and was introduced to a form of flight far different from anything I had experienced before. In 1993 I received my commercial license and started Big Sky Balloon Co. providing balloon rides and corporate advertising in NW Montana. In 2000 I relocated my business to Portland, OR and currently operate a contract for RE/MAX in the Pacific Northwest region. I very much enjoy traveling around this part of the country meeting other balloon pilots and sharing with people the great experiences that come from flying hot air balloons. What I love most about ballooning is its unique ability to totally excite and captivate people, which is what always makes it fun and exciting for me.



Chris Whitefield

Heaven Bound

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




Koh Morai


I am predominantly a sport flyer but also provide some instruction. I also enjoy aerostat construction, having completed an AX-5. One of my other joys in LTA aviation is working on, executing, and helping others with long distance, long duration, and high altitude flights. It has been my pleasure to be the launch master for 5 world records set over 3 flights. Yet time spent aloft is still the biggest thrill after all these years. The people you meet and become involved with are right up there with flying.

From 1991-1998 I was involved as launch crew, launch master, and consultant for several trans-global balloon attempts. These included Earthwinds Hilton, Virgin Global Challenge, ICO Global Challenge, and Global Hilton. From 2000 – 2005 I was involved with scientific balloon and systems design and flight operations for a small private firm supporting various government and university agencies. This work included designs and flights in earth atmosphere, near space, and planetary exploration.

Charles Edwards

puddy cat

I have been flying balloons since 1976 and have flown commercial balloon throughout the US.

One of the highlights of my flying career is flying in Bicentennial of the French Revolution in Metz. I am also a  airship pilot, flying various blimps including Sea World and Pink Floyd.  When at home in Florida I enjoy golf, boating and origami.



Robert Raper


I bought my first balloon in 1995 and began to learn to fly hot air balloons. I received my commercial pilots certificate in 1996. I have attended an average of 7 to 10 events a year.  I fly throughout the western 11 states annually attending events such as Great Reno Balloon Race and Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  I currently own High Plains Drifter Hot Air Balloons (5 balloons), LLC.  While my hot air balloon company is based out of Miles City, Montana, I currently live in North Bend, Oregon.  I am retired and concentrate my attention to all aspects of hot air ballooning. When considering an average flight is 1 hour, I have flown a total of 1300+ hours.

John Cavin

yellow bird

After driving race cars for 10 years, John was looking for an inexpensive way to get the same thrill. That's when in 1979, he came upon Hot Air Balloon racing. It was an adventure from the beginning and John has been flying ever since.

In 1996, John 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" John knew he had a great name for his unique, eye-catching, balloon.

Last year John added another eye-catching balloon to his air force. Spunky the skunk. Spunky and the Eater invade 18 Hot Air Balloon Festivals a year to thrill kids of all ages.



Greg Miller

Flying Purple People Eater

In the fall of 1989 at a Balloon event in Salem Oregon I took my first balloon ride and fell in love with ballooning immediately. From that point on it has been a family affair. For several years, along with my sons Cory and Matthew we were part of local chase crews at different events around the Northwest. In 1995 I purchased the smaller balloon we had been crewing for, and started our own Hot Air Balloon Adventures. In 1996 I received my private pilot’s license and in early 1997 I received my Commercial license. In 2007 I bought a bigger balloon and started offering Scenic Balloon flights, instruction and advertising with our new balloon. During the summer months I travel the Pacific Northwest participating in many ballooning events, and flying scenic flights, and doing Commercial promotions. I love going to the many different events each summer, allowing me to catch up with many old friends, and making many new friends along the way. For more than 15 years we have participated at the Tigard Festival. This year we are excited to be flying as a guest pilot the Flying Purple Eater Balloon.


Brann Smith


My first experience with Hot Air Ballooning was 16 years ago, a flight in Portland, Oregon. It then became my passion as I soon realized that it is such an amazing and unique sport. In 1999 I completed my private and commercial pilot training and began flying in Bend, Oregon with my own ride company. I believe Hot Air Ballooning is not just about flying but the people you encounter. Currently with my team/crew we have a ride business in Chico, California.

Alan Sanderson


Alan Sanderson started crewing for a co-worker’s balloon in the mid 1980s. After several years participation as a crew member, he decided to become a pilot. He trained with Mick Farnham and several other pilots in the Morgan Hill and Gilroy area south of San Jose, California where he earned his commercial balloon pilot certificate in 1992. He has flown many events in the Western US, including Albuquerque, NM, Reno, NV, Albany, and Tigard, OR.

He has logged more than 770 hours piloting balloons, and now lives in Albany, OR.

In addition to a commercial pilot certificate, he also holds a FAA repairman certificate, and he owns and operates Lindan Hot Air Service Center, a hot air balloon repair station certificated under FAA Part 145 and located in Albany, Oregon. He has attended factory maintenance training for Aerostar International, Cameron Balloons, Firefly and Galaxy Balloons, Kubicek Balloons, and Lindstrand Balloons. His repair is certificated to repair and inspect these brands, as well as several other brands. Specific experimental balloons can be added upon request.

vic johnson


Vic’s balloon training began in High School most often with the large ride companies in both Washington and Alaska. Equally comfortable in large or small balloons, Vic enjoys sharing his love of flying with passengers and students he teaches to fly. Vic has flown corporate balloons and special shapes across the country working for and owning several balloon ride and promotion companies over the years. In addition to ‘every day’ flying, Vic has travelled to Germany to train for and later receive his gas balloon rating, received the prestigious Montgolfiere Diplome from the FAI for the only balloon flight directly over the top of Mount Rainier to an altitude over 20,000’, and he is a licensed balloon repairman. The bottom line is Vic loves to fly and his passion for ballooning shows in all that he has accomplished during his 33+ year ballooning career.

Cheryl Isaacs

la brisa del mar

My first flight in a hot air balloon was in Napa Valley, California in 1986 when the area was still open and friendly to balloons.  I remember the beauty of the area and the vineyards below the thin layer of low clouds in the valley.  Our flight was absolutely beautiful, in the calm serene green hills of Napa.  Once the flight was over I realized I was hooked on ballooning.

In 1999 I decided that it was more fun flying than crewing all the time so a couple of friends and I got together for pilot training.  We purchased our first balloon together and received our training.  In 2000 we all received our private pilot certificates in our little 54,000 2 person balloon. 

I completed my commercial training the following year and have been flying since.  I am able to attend about 10 rallies each year some as far away as Gallup, New Mexico and as close as my home town Tigard, Oregon.  I am now part owner in a Cameron 84 and an Ultra Magic 90.

Kearney Davis

Kearney's Mistress

Hi, my name is Kearney Davis and I fly Kearney’s Mistrees, my wife named the balloon, as it is the only thing I can spend money on other than her. We have flown in this event and many others across the nation and love ballooning. We recently moved to Battle Ground, Wa, so this event so this event would be a great one as the travel time is short. I have been involved in ballooning for 25 years and a pilot for 17 years.

Laurie Cheatham


My ballooning experience started with a camera around 1986. I was very interested in photography and had an interest in balloons. My husband and I would always stop to take pictures whenever we saw balloons on our early morning drives 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 and eventually became regular crew for him. It was this pilot who encouraged me to get my pilot's license thinking I should take my ballooning experience to the next level. 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.

Jesse Rafn

Morning Melody

Jesse Rafn has been involved with the sport of ballooning since before he could walk or talk. Jesse always knew that he wanted to do more than crew. While he was still little dreamt of being a pilot, building his own little “hot-air balloon” with wooden pallets in his garage. However, his creative spirit did not stop there. When Jesse turned 18, he finally received his long, sought-after private balloon license. He then earned his commercial license in 2011 and started his business, “Floatin’ on Air”.

Today, you can find him at a number of festivals throughout the Northwest, always easy to spot in his beautiful rainbow swirl balloon called Morning Melody. Though he is involved in many festivals, he has a particular fondness for Tigard, the festival that first sparked the light of ballooning in him.



Laurence Dushane


I started ballooning in 1984 crewing for a friend of my mom’s in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I continued crewing for years with many different balloons. In 2012, I bit the bullet and bought a Cameron Balloon system. I started training in December of 2012 and completed my certificate in September 2014. I have flown Rallies, Fiestas and Festivals all over New Mexico. My job transferred me to Oregon this year and so begins the new chapter of my flying.

Cohen Balloon.JPG



Eliav runs Seattle Ballooning, a luxury hot air balloon operation flying directly in front of Mt. Rainier. He loves the art of ballooning and brings a refreshing excitement to the sport. Every day he has three goals: Provide an amazing flight for his guests, meet famous people by landing his balloon on the front lawns, and opening a bottle of champagne with a single swing of a sword. After his first flight, his instructor taught him the secret to the perfect balloon flight: Finish each flight with triple cream brie, a freshly baked baguette, and good aged wine or champagne. He learned to fly balloons on the outskirts of Nashville TN, and over the last eight years has launched balloons in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Phoenix, Utah, and Thailand. His energy is contagious, and we are excited to have him part of the Tigard Balloon Festival.  

Ernie Photo.png



I began flying balloons  in 1986. I have a commercial pilot rating. After becoming a commercial pilot, I flew as the chief pilot for NW Aviation, conducting scenic flights and flight instruction. My wife Becky is my crew chief. We enjoy ballooning together and sharing the experience with other people.. When not flying balloons, we work in Portland, Oregon as paramedics in the Multnomah County 911 EMS system.


Pilot Registration

Pilot Registration

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

June 23rd - 25th, 2017

The field of 30 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.