Contour Flying

My first exposure to hot air ballooning occurred back in the early 1980's. I happened to notice a hot air balloon basket in my neighbor's truck, so I went over and talked to him about coming out to take some pictures. Since ballooning was kind of rare in our area, he had a hard time getting crew, so I ended up helping him with a flight the first time I went out with him.

That first crew assignment ended up with me flying in a balloon for my very first time. All I can say is "WOW". I have always enjoyed flying in airplanes, but this was absolutely nothing like airplane flight, it was quiet, it was slow, it was low(er) and it was AWESOME. I was hooked.

Rich Smith, the local pilot didn't fly too often, but soon our son Eric and I were regular crew members when he did fly. As a crew member, I didn't get too many opportunities with a camera, but I sure had a blast helping with each and every flight.

We developed a reputation with area pilots, and soon we were branching out, helping other regional pilots and as crew, we got to fly occasionally.

We moved to Champaign in the late 80's, and we found Stan Jenkins, a very active pilot in the area. It also turned out that he was Rich's instructor, so when we met, we hit it off pretty well, and we  quickly became part of Stan's Crew. Again, as we became more involved, we also got hooked up with other pilots. The ballooning community was a lot bigger in Champaign, and soon the Balloon Association of Greater Illinois (BAGI) was formed. We were charter members, and we had an exciting career for our time in Champaign.

One thing happened while we were in Champaign. My wife Susan wanted nothing to do with balloons. It was all Eric and I. Well, when we started up in Champaign, we were gone so much that Susan and our developmentally disabled daughter started coming out with us. It didn't take long for us to notice that Hilary loved to be at the launch field. There was a lot of activity, lots of people, and she would giggle like crazy when the burners were lit. Being non verbal, we were very excited to see this. Over the couple of years we got to share this experience with her, she touched the lives of many people, and she altered a lot of opinions about people with disabilities.

After moving back to Springfield in 1991, we were introduced to a new pilot in the area, and quickly became friends. We remained active with them until they moved and then we continued to help other pilots in the area until our grandson started playing hockey.

Today, we still love to be around balloons, and we try to attend a couple of local group flights and rally's, and the pics in this gallery contains images from those experiences. If you have ever had the notion that you would like to fly in a balloon, all I can say is DO IT.

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