Meet your 2021 pilots!

Click on each pilots name to see more info.

Balloon: Dragon Moon

Bio: A half-hour hot air balloon flight in 1978 changed Jeanne’s life and captured her heart. Three and a half years later she was a commercially-rated balloon pilot. She has flow Dawn Patrol at the Great Reno Balloon Race and many other rallies around the West since 1986. She has served as a BFA western region Director, been president of the PCA and Sioux Falls Balloon Association, Newsletter Editor for the Pacific Coast Aeronauts for 10 years, organized the PCA Montgolfier Dinner for 20 years, was organizer and balloonmeister for the Siskiyou County Balloon Faire for 7 years plus served as a Counselor at BFA Youth camps for the 3 years. She has flown in all the western states (except Hawaii and Alaska) and many states in the mid-west and Switzerland and France. Flying in Albany is always fun; making new friends and connecting with long time friends.

Balloon: Montie the Black Sheep

Bio: No bio submitted yet

Balloon: Makin' Friends

Bio: I got my start in ballooning when I volunteered to help crew for a balloon event in Boise. After helping set up and take down the balloon I was hooked and started asking a lot of questions about how it all worked and what it took to fly the balloon. I started crewing regularly and eventually started training for my pilot certificate. I have had my balloon for fifteen years now and have attended balloon events all over the Northwest. When I am not flying my balloon I manage a CPA practice in Boise.

Balloon: Tierra Madre

Bio: My name is Carmen Blakely. I started crewing for hot air balloons in 1994; after my first flight I knew that I had to learn to fly. I received my Private pilot’s license in 2000 and my Commercial license in 2001. I now own half of three balloons with Cheryl Isaacs, flying in the Willamette Valley and travel, as much as possible to balloon rallies around the western US.

Balloon: Firedancer

Bio: Have been flying balloons for 19 years and have flown in 15 states from Oregon to Virginia, Washington to New Mexico and never wished I was doing something other than flying.

Balloon: Windrider

Bio: Began ballooning as a Sponsor at the Great Reno Balloon Race 1992-1995 and started lessons in 1986. Got my Commercial and Instructors Certificate in 1999. Was on the board of directors for the Great Reno Balloon Race 2004-2009 as a Trustee and Pilot Rep. Fly many events in Nevada, CA and Utah. Enjoy flying for the beauty of the land and the joy it brings to people. Married to my wife and fellow balloon pilot Chris for 45 years this Aug 24, 2019. We have 4 children and 9 grandchildren. We are both born and raised in Nevada and currently living in Sparks NV. Practicing Chiropractic since 1986 in Reno, NV Worship Team guitar/vocals at Spirit Filled Church in Sparks, NV and Music Worship Team leader at Christian Events/Festivals in NV & CA.

Balloon: Break Time

Bio: Ron and Sue Cassidy are both commercially rated hot air balloon pilots from Homedale, Idaho. Ron is an avid amateur balloon builder with many balloon builds to his credit. Together, they have owned over two dozen balloon during their ballooning career. Additionally, Ron is an FAA certified hot air balloon repairman. We look forward to participating in the festival and making new friends.

Balloon: Heiress

Bio: My balloon experience started with a camera around 1986. I was very interested in photography and 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. Over the next four years we traveled extensively to every balloon event we could - often driving the truck with the balloon equipment to and from events while the pilot traveled comfortably by airplane. It was this pilot who encouraged me to get my pilot's license thinking I should take my balloon experience to the next level. In 1991with 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. Ballooning has taken me to places I would never have a reason to go to and has given me the opportunity to meet people I never would have met otherwise.

Balloon: Kearney's Mistress

Bio: I got involved in Ballooning over 25 years ago. crewing then in 1996 I started my pilot training and in January 1997. in 2003 my wife told me to buy a brand new balloon so it would last better than the used ones I owned in the past. So in Oct. 2003 I ordered a new Cameron balloon and it has served me well. the name of my Balloon is Kearney's Mistress as my wife says it is the only thing I can spend money on other than her.

Balloon: Tahnimara Two

Bio: Roy Foote Have been ballooning for over 25 years. We support the VA each year with a tether for anyone who is a patient of the hospital. Held at the Va hospital itself We have flown near here numerous times when the Nortwest balloon championships were in Salem

Balloon: Knight N Gale

Bio: I’ve been flying since 1979 and received both of my certificates in 1980. My experience has summed to over 1,000 hours mainly the Northwest with a few excursions into California and New Mexico. My most frequent flying has been at organized rally events. I’ve been active in the Balloon Federation of America and ran the Continuing Education program for five years and have organized safety seminars in the 90’s and three after the millennium. I’ve also led the local and regional clubs, in the 1980’s and president of the Willamette Aerostat Society from 20113 through 2015. I’m currently a FAASafety Representative, a post I’ve held for over five years. I’ve enjoyed the flying of balloons immensely yet the people that serve as our crew, passengers and the public have kept the spark alive which keeps me and my wife Shari going in ballooning.

Balloon: Little Wing

Bio: Started flying balloons in 1978. Attended Pacific University in Forest Grove Oregon. Stayed in Oregon until 1984 . Flew all over the Northwest in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho during that time. I moved to San Diego in 1984 and have continued to fly mostly in Southern California. But attended races in Windsor California and Boise Idaho. I love flying in the Northwest Art & Air Festival and it is always so nice to be back flying in Oregon again! I love the wide open spaces and beautiful landscape and great people.

Balloon: Saranyu

Bio: Champagne and propane, who could ask for more all before 9:00am, needless to say I am a balloon junkie. I have been involved in ballooning for 30 plus years. I started crewing for a commercial company in Napa Valley and soon decided that I wanted to fly these magical floating balloons. I earned my commercial ticket in 1996 and have been flying for fun ever since, as I also have a full time career as a Oracle consultant. I try to attend as many ballooning events as possible every year, but there is also fishing and crabbing to enjoy here in Oregon, so my time gets split. I have been blessed to be able to have flown in events in OR, WA, CA, NM and Nevada.

Balloon: Patriot

Bio: Pat Irwin-Pilot I have been married to my wife Melanie since 1980 celebrating 40 years this year. We have two wonderful children and 1 grandchild. I have been part of ballooning since the 1981 when the Great Reno Balloon Race was created. I attended as a spectator and have held every position you can imagine until I became a pilot in 1996. My son Curtis is my main crew chief and has helped me out for many events including Leon MX, Provo UT, all over NV and many other states and areas. I worked and retired from Nevada Bell designing 911 systems and I also am retired Fire Fighter from Lovelock Volunteer Fire Department and was a career Fire Captain for the Gerlach Fire Department outside of Reno, home of Burning Man. I have been flying balloons for over 25 years, staying mostly on the west coast in the United States. Now that I am retired, I look forward to many more adventures and flying in many new states and countries. I am extremely competitive and love the competitions that come with balloon races. It sharpens my skills and makes me a better pilot. Mostly, I love to meet new people and just float, I look forward to seeing pilots and crew I know and meeting new pilots and crew and especially the people that put on balloon events in their community to help grow the sport. I love to share smiles

Balloon: La Brisa Del Mar

Bio: Bio I took my first balloon ride in Napa, California in 1984 and absolutely fell in love with it. I then began crewing for the U S West Communications balloon with Chauncey who was the pilot then. After a short period away from the activity I got back into it about 12 years ago when I took my husband for his first flight with a company in Newberg. We both got hooked on it and began crewing every weekend. I finally decided staying on the ground all the time wasn’t as much fun as being in the air so in the year 2000 I got my private and in 2001 I got my commercial license. It has been a great time ever since. I am partners with a friend and together we now own 2 balloons of our own. I travel around to a variety of places to enter into festivals and to fun fly so I can see different sights and people. I hope to continue for several more years before the fun runs out, if it ever will. Cheryl Isaacs La Brisa Del Mar Balloon Commercial Hot Air Balloon Pilot

Balloon: La Jolla

Bio: Dale has been around hot air balloons for over 30 years. He started his pilot training in 1984. He completed the requirements and passed his Private tests 25 years later, in 2009. He never gave up the dream of being a pilot. His balloon is named "La Jolla (La Hoya)." He has his Commercial rating and in 2015 received the "Aeronaut of the Year" award from the Willamette Aerostat Society (Oregon). Dale attends a number of balloon rallies and festivals every year. For Dale, giving others the thrill of flying in a balloon is a great pleasure.

Balloon: Sonoma Star

Bio: Started ballooning in 1993 by answering an ad in the newspaper. Got to fly the Burger King Whopper balloon when still a student at a balloon rally with 40 other balloons. That set the hook. Created and ran a commercial ride business, Up & Away Ballooning, for 15 years in the Sonoma Co. wine country. Sold the biz in 2015 and "retired" to OR. Back to CA in 2019, and now back managing and lead pilot for Up & Away. Have flown in CA, NM, NV, OR, WA and New Zealand. Enjoy the most? After flying over 10,000 passengers, still love to share the experience with first time riders.

Balloon: SewHappy II

Bio: I started hot air ballooning in 1980 when my husband Bob decided to swap his beautiful glider for our first balloon. We "paid our dues" with the early morning long drives to launch sites for Bob's instruction and the grueling "how to be the perfect crew chief lessons." There were the perks of finding new friends; the beauty of our colorful hot air balloon, Sundance; the fun of sharing our adventures; and learning about this whole, new unknown world. After Bob completed his commercial license, it became my turn to learn to fly. On my first flight I was hooked--BIG time! Bob was (is) a very thorough and demanding instructor. Despite all his efforts however, I received my commercial license in 1984. I became the local instructor, guiding students to their pilot's certificate. In 1986, Bob built our first homebuilt balloon, Castaway so that he would have a balloon to fly, as I somehow always managed to be the pilot-in-command. Thus started our life as a two balloon, two pilot family. Throughout the years we have continued our homebuilding and I currently fly our sixth homebuilt balloon, SewHappyII. We travel to rallies around the Pacific Northwest and enjoy our beautiful local flying area. I fly balloons as a hobby, for the therapy, for the love of the sport and the friendships ballooning brings, and for the opportunity to share the magic with others.

Balloon: Airtight

Bio: No bio submitted yet

Balloon: Emerald

Bio: 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. In 2017 Jack’s wife, Sallie, started Willamette Valley Balloons to provide scenic flights for passengers and to travel to balloon rallies. Jack now works for her on his days off, flying the green and black balloon you’ll see at the rally. Stop by and say hi. We’d love to meet you.

Balloon: Citrus in the Sky

Bio: After growing up on a farm in Minnesota and moving all over, Karalyn landed in Reno, NV and saw balloons for the first time at the Great Reno Balloon Race in 2011. She fell in love with balloons and after volunteering for GRBR, crewing for local pilots and helping with High Sierra Balloon Camp in 2013, the next logical step was to become a pilot. She purchased her balloon, Farmer's Daughter, in 2015 and completed her private pilot rating in 2016. In November 2017 she purchased a ‘new to her’ envelope which her boys named Citrus in the Sky. It should provide many years of fun for her and her family. After helping with balloon camps in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018 she completed her commercial pilot rating in 2018. This past summer she continued the camp tradition by directing 2019 High Sierra Balloon Camp. She's excited to share the love of the sport with anyone and everyone who agrees that it's the BEST REASON EVER to set your alarm clock!

Balloon: Double Down

Bio: I have been around balloons since 1999 when I started as a crew chief and worked my way up to head crew cheif for Rainbow Ryders in Albuquerque for 4 years. I have been flying all around New Mexico and Colorado and have had the privilege of flying in the canyons around Taos and the mountains of the Rockies in New Mexico and Colorado. I look forward to expanding my flying resume across the West and hopefully some day across the world. Australia, Africa, Asia, and Europe are all bucket list flights I would like to have before I finish my flying career. Living in Albuquerque, I have had the good fortune to train and fly with some of the best pilots on the planet and look forward to taking my skills to the next level. I'm currently enrolled with Airborne Heat and plan to have my commercial certification by the end of March.

Balloon: Just In Kace

Bio: I grew up around single engine fixed wing planes as a kid, but I always marveled at hot air balloons gracefully coloring the sky. Many years later, my now wife took me out to crew for 7th Heaven. She had been crewing them for many years. It was exhilarating, but yet, peaceful. The pilot, Ron Grove, encouraged me to become a pilot as well, like really?! The next year I was studying away under the wing, errrr envelope, of Chris Whitfield and purchased my first hot air balloon, like this is getting real now. With many thanks to my family and wonderful crew, in 2018,I received my private pilots certificate, with the goal of going commercial this year. Now I get to help gracefully color the sky.

Balloon: Fired Up

Bio: For some, love of sport comes early in life. Such is the case for me. Before the age of 10, I began chasing balloons from the very first time I saw one. Begging my parents to take me ballooning for every event in Oregon State, they looked forward to me getting my driver’s license so I could make those early morning treks on my own. 35 years later, I can be found most flyable days either piloting one of my two balloons, someone else's balloon, or chasing someone flying so she I can photograph the action. A firm believer in the Disney motto “if you can dream it, you can do it”, I knew that becoming a balloon pilot was a dream I would achieve. Appreciating the time and patience the balloon pilots and crews had for me as a youngster chasing balloons, I pays it forward by bringing the passion for aviation to children at elementary and secondary schools, participating as a host and mentor for the local and national Junior Balloonist programs and by teaching other aspiring pilots of all ages how to fly. Filling several positions for officer positions in local and regional balloon clubs, Aeronaut of the Year for the Puget Sound LTA Society, top 3 finisher at Northwest balloon competitions and honorable mention at the first ever all women balloon competition, my love for the sport of ballooning continues to grow. “If it has been your dream too – you should do it!” I say to those who are contemplating a flight.

Balloon: Endless Joy

Bio: McKenna has had a love for ballooning her whole life, and began to be fascinated with them when she was young while watching them fly from her house. At a young age she was determined to someday be a hot air balloon pilot. With lots of hard work and support from other pilots, she achieved her pilots certificate in July of 2016, on her sixteenth birthday. In August of 2018 she achieved her commercial certificate, and has been flying all over the country since then!

Balloon: Nat

Bio: I started Ballooning in the fall of 1972 when the legendary Col. Chauncey Dunn arrived in my home town of Walla Walla WA. To do a week long promotion for home coming at Whitman College. After being spellbound watching his first flight I showed up to crew on all the subsequent flights that week. During his brief stay in Walla Walla Col. Dunn sold a couple of other local enthusiasts on the sport of Ballooning and when Nat Vale and Bill Lloyd took delivery of their new Balloons I started crewing with them and learning to fly. In the spring of 1974 it was decided that the Walla Walla valley needed a Balloon event and thus the Walla Walla Balloon Stampede and Pea Picking contest was born. The event lasted for 40 years and I attended all of them. Since those early days I have flown in all 50 states, operated ride businesses in Oregon, Washington, Arizona and New South Wales AU. Flown corporate and special shape balloons all over the world, helped organized and served as Balloonmeister for several Balloon events throughout the Northwest including the Walla Walla Balloon Stampede I own Columbia Balloonport a certified repair station for Balloons in Walla Walla WA. I am a dealer for Lindstrand Balloons and work part time at the Lindstrand Balloon factories In Galena IL and Oswestry UK and am in charge of special projects.

Balloon: Starfire

Bio: Larry Simburger began his ballooning involvement at the age of 15, by participating as balloon crew. He has always had an interest in aviation eventually making a career in the aviation industry at Boeing. Ballooning has been a family adventure, Gail his wife and sons Dave, Mike and Matthew have grown up in the ballooning community. Larry flies a balloon named Starfire a colorful balloon designed and named by his family. Larry’s newest addition to his family is Leo, he loves balloon chasing and is wonderful greeter to all the people who show up during flying and packup. Larry and crew are looking forward to coming back to Albany to visit with old friends and the opportunity to make new friends.

Balloon: Sundancer

Bio: Brann Smith Sundancer My first experience with hot air ballooning was 23 years ago. It then became my passion as I soon realized that it is such an amazing and unique sport. In 1999 I completed my commercial pilot training and began flying in Oregon with my own company. 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, New Mexico 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.

Balloon: Heaven Bound

Bio: 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.