We are proud to present this year’s balloon pilots! These balloonists from the great states of Tennessee, Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia will be bringing over 150+ years of combined experience and a diverse collection of vibrant balloons with them to the festival. Our pilots have flown as far as Australia and Costa Rica in search of the most beautiful landscapes many people only dream about. They come from diverse backgrounds, have been in numerous competitions and races and have perfomed aerial stunts. Do not miss some of the greatest pilots in the world. Come and enjoy the sights and sounds of some of the most elaborate balloons known to man.
Owner/President of Parks Quality Air, Inc. and Parks Balloon Aviation, Inc., Sam has been flying balloons since 1988. An avid Hot-Air Balloon Pilot, advancing to commercial rating in 1989 and gas balloon rating in 2000, he has logged more than 1,400 hours of flight time and 161 in gas balloons. Sam is the current President of the Balloon Federation of America. He is the founding member and past president of the Iredell Aeronauts Society and Aero Club of American, North Carolina Chapter LLC, as well as past president of the Carolinas Balloon Association. Sam has been the director of 13 different balloon rallies and Festivals over the past 25 years since 1989. In 2011 Sam achieved the title of Assistant Balloonmesiter of the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, the worlds largest balloon festival, graduating into his current role as Balloonmeister in 2013 and 2014. He has won awards and races, including being a part of the 2004 US team that competed in Australia. He won the Balloon Federation of America Award of Excellence, in 1995, the Distinguished Aeronaut award in 2003, and the America Director’s Award in 2007. Sam also won the North Carolina State Championship in 1994 and has won 11 State championships in the past 20 years. Sam has flown balloons in Canada, England, Japan, Australia, and Austria.
Roy Smith, our balloonmeister and great friend lost his battle with cancer.
Tom lives in the mountains near Maryville and has been flying balloons for over 30 years. He has flown many commercial and ‘special shape’ balloons, but he prefers non-commercial ‘Sport Ballooning.’ His passion is Balloon Competition, and he has won or placed well in many races, including International, National, Tennessee and Michigan Championships. He has been Balloonmeister in many balloon events, including those hosted by WOKI and Pellissippi State in Knoxville. With his pilot wife, Pat, they have had the opportunity to fly in many foreign countries. Tom is a BFA Master Flight Instructor and a representative of Cameron Balloons of Ann Arbor, Michigan. When not flying balloons, Tom stays busy restoring and flying antique airplanes.
Steve lives in Anderson, South Carolina, with his wife Amy and their two boys, Beaux and Spruce. Steve has been a licensed pilot since 1985 and has logged more than 2000 hours in 35 states and five countries. Some of his favorite locations to fly include the mountains of Montana and Costa Rica. In the late 1990s, Steve also began using a balloon as a platform from which to skydive. This led to the involvement of performing aerial stunts involving a balance beam between two balloons, rope ladders and tea parties on top of balloons.
Buck lives in North Carolina with his wife, Louise. He began crewing in 1986 for a Dawn Patrol and became hooked on ballooning ever since then. He received his private license shortly thereafter in 1988. Buck has flown in many competitions across the country and says that the most interesting thing one can do with a balloon is touch the lives of others.
Louise became interested in ballooning in 1986 when she accompanied one of her best friends to the Freedom Weekend Aloft in South Carolina and joined the chase crew for pilot Harold Penny. She then became a student pilot later that year. Louise participated in several balloon competitions such as the Carolinas Fest, the Kingsport TN Funfest and the Pellissippi State Event.
Jim is an instrument-rated airplane pilot and a commercial balloon pilot. He has been flying balloons since 1989. He has had three balloons, including one special shape. Currently, he is living in Townville, South Carolina where he is flying the Palmetto Paws balloon with his daughter, who is a student pilot.
David is a Georgia native and has been ballooning for over 30 years now. He became hooked at 3 1/2 years old when he saw his first balloon fly over. By the time he reached 9 years old, he was building his own small hot air balloons from tissue paper. He bought tarp fabric from HEAD Balloons at 13 and built his own balloon, in which he later made his first solo flight. Ballooning also inspired David to become an airline pilot, and he now works for American Airlines "The Worlds Largest Airline"
Don started flying his balloon three years ago off the farm in Seymour where he resides with his wife and many, many animals. He started ballooning in the early seventies under a balloon that lifted him a half a mile above the Everglades, then dropped him in a hang glider. A life-long sailplane pilot, he always promised himself to get back to balloons one day, and now he has.
Dan is the chief pilot and owner/operator of Z-Balloon Adventures. He has been involved in hot air balloons since 1973 and averages about 120 to 190 flights a year. Dan holds numerous hot air balloon records and awards. Dan has the LifeTime membership in the BFA (Balloon Federation of America) and is a BFA Level VII Prominent Aeronaut and a FAA Safety Wings Program Level 12 Pilot! Dan was also ordained as a Minister in 2001 so as to allow him to conduct balloon weddings and cremain scattering ceremonies. Dan was also the first to inflate and fly a hot air balloon in Veteran’s Auditorium in Des Moines. An altitude record of “6 feet” was established January, 25th, 1997. In 1998, Dan also became the first pilot in Iowa in over 24 years to fly in the dark! He now offers this as a Passenger Ride option! These are known as “Dawn Patrols”.