Pilot bios

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

Darren Kling

RE/MAX

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. He currently manages a corporate balloon program for RE/MAX International in the Pacific Northwest region and also operates scenic balloon flights in Central Oregon. Darren has flown balloons around the country and internationally while accumulating nearly 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.”

 

Heaven.PNG

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

Firenza

I started flying balloons in the spring of 1978. Since then the sport has allowed me to fly in 4 continents, in both hot air and gas balloons.  Along the way I have spent time in home building my own balloons, assisting with around the world balloon record attempts, distance/duration/altitude world record flights, and studying/lecturing on mountain weather forecasting.  The people and sights associated with the peace and beauty of flying are still the main draw after all this time and having had the opportunities I have.  

mike kijak

tom cat

I have been flying since 1993. I have owned and operated "Up and Away Ballooning" in Sonoma, CO for the last 16 years. I sold my biz and "retired".

 

laura hancock

morning glory

Morning Glory is a 1978 Raven Rally, flown by Balloonmeister, Laura Hancock of Newberg, OR. Laura has been ballooning since 1992 and co-owns Morning Glory with her Crew Chief, Gerald Bales.

Terry Mouse.JPG

John Cavin

terry mouse

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.

  

GetImage-6.jpg

DAVID dunrud

Flying Purple People Eater

Ballooning has always been part of my life, and always will be. I started flying at the ripe age of 14 and it's still breathtaking. "Every day is a new adventure." I purchased my first balloon when I was 17 and continued building my hours. I enjoy sharing a life long memory with my passengers, something they've never forget, the gift of free fight. I have been a commercial pilot for 10 years and I am looking forward for many more to come. When I'm not flying balloons, I am serving my community as a Firefighter/EMT. I am living my dream.

GetImage-7.jpg

Kenny Weiner

independence

Kennedy Weiner is a fourth generation balloon pilot. He grew up as a member of the Seasons Hot Air Balloon team out of Ohio. He is also an Air Force C-17 pilot. 

 

Alan Sanderson

high hopes

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.

dale justice

la Jolla

Dale has been around hot air balloons for over 30 years.  He has had the colorful "La Jolla (La Hoya)" balloon since 2015. He has his Commercial Pilot rating and received the 2015 "Aeronaut of the Year" award from the Willamette Aerostat Society. For Dale, 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. Dale also takes many pictures at balloon events and the pictures are appreciated by family and friends.

Cheryl Isaacs

la brisa del mar

In 1996 I started crewing for a balloon company in the valley. In 1999 I decided to learn to fly so a couple friends and I took lessons. We bought our first balloon together. In 2000 I got my commercial and now fly my own balloon and contract with a company in the valley. I travel with my balloon partner and friend to various rallies. I love doing school presentations and training kids on balloons.

 

Kearney Davis

Kearney's Mistress

My interest in ballooning began with crewing in the Great Reno Balloon Race approximately 30 years ago. I started my pilot training in 1996, with my pilot training being completed in January 0f 1997.Then in 2015 I went on and certified and became a commercial pilot.

Laurie Cheatham

Heiress

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.

Alternate Universe.JPG

ERNIE LESLey

ALTERNATE UNIVERSE

I have been flying since 1985. 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 and I work as senior paramedics in the Multnomah County 911 EMS in the Portland metro area.

 

Dushane.PNG

bill woodhead

his sky

I have been a Airplane Pilot for the past 45 years and a Balloon Pilot for over 37 years. He has flown balloons in balloon events in a majority of the states in the USA as well as in, Canada, Kenya East Africa, Israel and New Zealand. He currently lives near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

 

Sundance.JPG

brann smith

SUNDANCEr

My first experience with hot air ballooning was 20 years ago. It then became my passion as I soon realized that it is such an amazing and unique sport. I believe hot air ballooning is not just about flying but the people you encounter and the wonderful experience and memories we create together. During my career as a Pilot, I have flown in six states; Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and now California. Currently in Chico, California I am again flying as a business and give back to the community where I grew up. I hope to share the joy and serenity of floating through the air with as many people as I can, hoping to inspire the feeling of freedom and adventure to the hearts of others that it brings to me.