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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 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.




2019 Pilot bios

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

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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, John 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 had had a great name for his unique, eye-catching, balloon.


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laurie cheatham


Laurie’s 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, Laurie insisted that she go. Laurie came home hooked on ballooning. Through a friend Laurie started crewing for a local pilot. It was this pilot who encouraged her to get her pilot's license. In 1991 with the help of her dad, Laurie purchased her first balloon and got her license. Laurie eventually went on to get her commercial license and now owns a fleet of three balloons. Laurie has found ballooning to be challenging, rewarding and peaceful all at once. Laurie never tires of sharing the sport with new people and has made some great friends over the years.

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kearney davis

Kearney's mistress

Kearney’s interest in ballooning began with crewing in the Great Reno Balloon Race approximately 30 years ago. Kearney started his pilot training in 1996, with his pilot training being completed in January of 1997. Then in 2015 Kearney went on and certified and became a commercial pilot. Kearney has been flying ever since. Kearney’s family enjoys traveling to and participating in balloon rallies. They have had the opportunity to fly in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Wyoming, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Kearney’s wife, Deanna, named the balloon “Kearney’s Mistress” as she said it is the only thing Kearney can spend money on other that her. So, his balloon is his Mistress.

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david dunrud

rocket the flying squirrel

David grew up around the sport of ballooning. His aunt has been flying balloons for over 35 years and she sparked his interest at the age of two. At age 11 David started crewing for balloons and at the age of 14 he received his student certificate…and the rest is history. David is currently 33 and a commercial pilot with over 950 flights. He enjoys sharing this one of a kind experience with others and creating a lasting memory they’ll never forget. When David is not in the air, he is servicing his community as a Firefighter EMT.


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katie griggs

sushi the flying goldfish

Katie has flown the special shape balloon “Sushi” at numerous events across the country since 2001. Katie owns and operates a FAA certified Repair station for hot air balloon, and she performs annuals and repairs on hot air balloons. Katie also attends maintenance seminars every year at the balloon manufacturers. She puts on safety seminars for local balloonists in the Reno/Carson City area, education and safety are very important along with training of new pilots. Katie flies the Northern Nevada RE/MAX Balloon program. Katie is the Balloonmiester for the Great Reno Balloon Race, Pahrump Balloon Festival, and the Nevada Day RE/MAX Balloon Launch. Katie was the Chairman for the Balloon Federation of America (BFA) National Convention, April 2015. She was also elected to the Board of the BFA as the Western Regional Director. Katie is passionate about preserving and promoting hot air ballooning through education, safety practices, and training.

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Cheryl isaacs

la brisa del mar

In 1996 Cheryl started crewing for a large balloon company in the valley and absolutely loved it. In 1999 Cheryl decided to learn how to fly so she started training with a couple friends and bought her first balloon. Cheryl became a private pilot in 1999 and passed her commercial in 2000. Cheryl flies commercially with Vista Balloons in Newberg, Oregon and can fly up to a 140K with passengers. Cheryl also travels with her own balloon to various rallies every year and really enjoys the social events and the flying. Cheryl also participates in previous safety seminars as a presenter on Crew Safety including but not limited to driving safety, navigating during the chase, being crew chief and the responsibilities that come with that, proper use of lines, proper use of radios and safety of using the inflator fan.


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Dale justice

la jolla

Dale has been around hot air balloons for over 30 years and started his pilot training in 1984. He completed the requirements and passed his private tests in 2009. He never gave up the dream of being a pilot. Dale has his Commercial rating and in 2015 received the "Aeronaut of the Year" award from the Willamette Aerostat Society (Oregon). Dale attends several balloon rallies and fiestas every year. For Dale, giving others the thrill of flying in a balloon is a great pleasure.

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darren kling


Darren went on his first balloon flight in 1989 and was introduced to a form of flight that captivated him from the start. In 1993 he received his commercial LTA license and started Big Sky Balloon Co. Darren currently manages a corporate balloon program for RE/MAX International in the Pacific Northwest region and operates scenic balloon flights in Central Oregon. Darren has flown balloons around the country and internationally while accumulating more than 2000 flight hours. “I love to share with people the great experiences that come from flying hot air balloons and their unique ability to totally excite and captivate people always keeps it fun and exciting for me.”


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jack loflin


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


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gary moore

owlbert eyenstein

Gary has flown in 23 countries and 40 of the 50 U.S. states. Gary has flown 13 special shaped balloons

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koh murai


UPDATE: Unfortunately Koh will not be able to fly at the 2019 Festival.

Koh is predominantly a sport flyer, but also provides some instruction. Koh also enjoys aerostat construction with his first effort an AX-5. One of his 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. It has been Koh’s pleasure to be the launch master for 5 world record flights. Weather, meteorology and forecasting are also areas of constant interest to Koh. Since mid-2007, Koh has been the engineering consultant and engineer of record for Firefly Balloons. 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

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Robert raper

fallen angels

Robert bought his first balloon August 1995 (Rock Springs, Wyoming) and received his Commercial Certificate April 1996 (Park City, Utah). Robert has flown in all 11 western states averaging 7-9 events per year. In 2010 Robert created his hot air balloon company – High Plains Drifter Hot Air Balloons, LLC based out of Miles City, MT. Robert has 5 balloons registered under his company and provides balloon services such as private rides, advertising, tether rides, and special activities such as reunions, weddings, and company gatherings.

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alan sanderson


Alan started crewing for a coworker in 1985. He qualified for a commercial LTA pilot certificate in 1992, and flew for many years in California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon. He completed the move from California to Oregon the beginning of 2006, including Lindan Hot Air Service Center, the only FAA certificated hot air balloon repair station in Oregon. He continues to fly in several events in Oregon, Nevada, California, and recently in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

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brann smith


Brann’s first experience with hot air ballooning was 21 years ago. It then became his passion as he soon realized that it is such an amazing and unique sport. In 1999, Brann completed his commercial pilot training and began flying in Oregon with his own company. Brann believes hot air ballooning is not just about flying, but the people you encounter and the wonderful experience and memories created together. During Brann’s career as a Pilot, he has flown in seven states: Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and now California. Currently in Chico, CA, Brann is again flying as a business and gives back to the community where he grew up. Brann hopes to share the joy and serenity of floating through the air with as many people as he can, hoping to inspire the feeling of freedom and adventure to the hearts of others that it brings to him.


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UPDATE: Unfortunately Mark will not be able to join the 2019 Festival.

Mark is an airplane and commercial hot air balloon pilot. He received his fixed-wing airplane pilot's license in 1984 and his hot air balloon license in 2008. In 2012, Mark added an Advanced Ground Instructor rating, which allows him to give ground instruction for any certificate or rating (except for the Instrument Rating) required for a sport pilot, recreational pilot, or private pilot certificate. Mark and his wife Kris are proud owners of a 90,000 cubic foot Firefly hot air balloon, named iSOAR. When not flying hot air balloons, Mark is very active in the CIVIL AIR PATROL as a search and rescue mission pilot. He served as President of the Willamette Aerostat Society (WAS), which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the sport of hot air ballooning.


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chris whitfield

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 and Chris is the Balloonmeister for the Northwest Art and Air Festival.


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bill woodhead

his sky

Bill has been a pilot of over 50 years in airplanes and balloons and has amassed over 3600 hours as Pilot in Command. Bill has flown balloons in most of the states in USA as well as Canada, Israel, Kenya and New Zealand.

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mark yonker


Mark has flown balloons in 45 states, including Alaska. He has been a corporate balloon pilot for 10 years flying balloons for Freixenet Champagne, Ray-O-Vac Batteries, GM Goodwrench Service and Energizer. Mark completed for Nationals 1996, finishing as Rooking of the Year. Mark is currently flying sport balloons in Washington state.

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Carmen blakely

Pacific sunrise

Carmen started crewing for hot air balloons in 1994; after her first flight she knew she had to learn to fly. Carmen received her Private pilot’s license in 2000 and her Commercial license in 2001. She now owns Tierramadre, flies in the Willamette Valley and travels as much as possible to balloon rallies around the western US. As of 2016, Carmen has flown in all of the western states in various balloon rallies or just for the fun of flying.

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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.