Your connection with the sky

“A Pilot’s Story” discovers the Magical World of Lighter than Air Flight

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting Kevin Knapp, the Mayflower Transit hot air ballon corporate pilot.  I was introduced to Kevin through our good friends Col. Joe Kittinger and his lovely wife Sherry.

Will Hawkins (director of the film) and I met with Kevin upon our arrival to lakeland, FL for Sun ‘n Fun.  We had a chance to chat and discuss Kevin’s fascination with hot air balloons and how he was introduced to flying them.  We decided what day and time we were going to meet for our ride with Kevin. This was both Will and my first ride in a hot air balloon.

On the day of the ride, we met with Kevin at 5:30AM.  He was joined by 2 other hot air balloon pilots of ReMax Real Estate and United Van Lines and a few other passengers.

We all helped set up the baskets while learning about how hot air balloons are constructed and their flight characteristics. A little while later, all three balloons where ready for the flight.  Luckily, the winds that day were calm at the surface and within the first few thousand feet up in the air.  During the inflation process, Kevin asked Will to join him inside of the balloon with the camera. (Photo below) and the footage and images we captured were truly amazing.

Once it was time for us to take off, we each got into our respective balloon basket and got ready for departure.  Will was riding in the Mayflower Balloon and I got to ride in the ReMax balloon.  We both had our camera equipment and were ready to film from our own prospectives.  A couple of pumps of hot air and we were off...  Within seconds, I found myself in an relaxed state of mind.  I was taking in the amazing views and could not believe how peaceful it was to ride in a balloon.  This is a far cry from how anxious I felt just moments earlier.  Like many pilots, I have a fear of heights, however, none of that sensation affected me during the flight. It was simply magical!

Once all three balloons were up in the air, the winds aloft took over and we were on our way towards the east.  While filming the amazing scenery, I noticed that the Mayflower balloon which Will was in was descending towards a small pond.  Using his amazing skills at piloting the hot air balloon, Kevin was able to bring the ballon down ever so gently and splashing the bottom of the balloon’s basket into the pond then quickly lifting back up.  (Picture below).

The three balloon convoy continued east for a few more minutes until all three pilots while communicating over radio agreed on a landing area.  Usually, a hot air balloon ride is a one way ticket unless you’re inside a box canyon which may allow for a round trip flight!  We were met by the chase team soon after the gentle landing at a field.  Everyone including the passengers, the crew and the chase team helps in breaking down the balloons and packing them into their respective vans.

Will and I would like to thank Roy Caton pilot of the United Van Lines Hot Air Balloon and Jon Thompson pilot of the ReMax Hot Air Balloon.   Special thanks to Kevin Knapp and Mayflower transit for providing their balloon for this amazing ride.

To see the Mayflower Hot Air Balloon at an event near you, visit the following Facebook page for schedule and dates: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=54345723525&ref=ts

A Pilot’s Story is a feature length documentary film currently in production that explores the mystical attraction and endless adventure that draw pilots into the sky. www.apilotsstory.com

We plan to premier the third trailer of their film at the Fly-In Theater at AirVenture 2009.  The event will be at 8PM on Friday July 31st.  For more details, visit: http://www.airventure.org/attractions/evening_programs.html

Rico Sharqawi

Producer/A Pilot's Story

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