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The Team

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The Pilot

Thomas Brown

Pilot Thomas (Tom) Brown grew up in New Hampshire, and served 22 years in the United States Air Force before relocating to Michigan in 2000. 'Never a dull moment' describes Tom’s military and personal careers, having traveled and served around the world, and lived a very active lifestyle, from motocross to skiing, soccer, bowling, scuba diving, golfing, hiking, biking, camping, and now, horses!


I witnessed my first hot air balloon event in San Antonio, TX, around 1991. I was promptly drawn to the awe and splendor of these Gentle Giants, the fun and excitement experienced by spectators and balloon teams alike. The book, “Taming the Gentle Giant, A Guide to Hot Air Ballooning” furthered my interest.
 

I began crewing for a hot air balloon team soon after moving to Colorado Springs, CO in 1992. Colorado Springs was and remains a very active ballooning community, similar to Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, MI, both steeped in the history and continuity of modern-day hot air ballooning.


I attained my Private Pilot Certificate in 1997, just before relocating to Massachusetts, nearby my native New Hampshire, where I attained my Commercial Certificate in 2000, just prior to moving to Michigan.
Having safely piloted for over 25 years, I have nearly 1,000 hrs and have flown nearly 2,000 passengers!


The awe and splendor, fun and excitement continue as we fly regularly around Southwest Michigan and participate in many events throughout Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta, and Leon, Mexico’s Festival Internacional del Globo!

The Crew

Thank you, very much!

As I can’t do; as I am,
Nothing, without you!

So goes my heartfelt Crew Haiku; as every pilot knows – we can’t Pilot without Crew, first and foremost!
(Some might point out that we could, but what would be the fun in that?)


Family and friends, old and new, come together to help every hot air balloon pilot do what we do. Many come from ballooning families, but most come from the friends and friendships developed along the way!


Crews are essential to our preparation, launch, flight and landing operations. They may help assemble, work positions like throat (or mouth), crown line and fan during cold inflation, navigation, communication and landowner relations during chase and landing, and are always themselves ambassadors of our sport!


Safety is paramount. Crews are initially trained and gain crucial experience to promote safe operations!


Crewing provides a wonderful way to get up close and personal with our Gentle Giants! We welcome new friends to stop by, learn more about our sport, and even volunteer to become new crew members!

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The Fleet

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Hot air balloons are Federally Registered, lighter-than-air aircraft*. Hot air balloons are issued a Type and Airworthiness Certificate and undergo rigorous inspection requirements as with any other aircraft.


Hot air balloon Pilots progress through Student, Private and Commercial, written, oral and practical testing standards to attain a Lighter-Than-Air Balloon, Hot Air Balloons with Airborne Heater Pilot Rating.


* The term aircraft refers to any vehicle that flies in the air.

Hot air balloon named Tomfoolery 2 in the sky

Tomfoolery II

Is a 90,000 cu ft Cameron Z-90, manufactured by Cameron Balloons US.

Manufacturer: Cameron Balloons, US (Dexter, MI)
Model: Z-90
Gores: 24
Volume (cu. ft.): 90,000
FAI Category: AX-8
Max FAA Certified Weight: 1800
Height (ft): 60
Diameter (ft): 58

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George

Is a 77,000 cu ft Kubicek BB22XR, manufactured by Kubicek Balloons, Brno Czech Republic.

Manufacturer: Kubicek Balloons, Brno Czech Republic
Model: BB22XR
Gores: 12
Volume (cu. ft.): 77,000
FAI Category: AX-7
Max FAA Certified Weight: 1609


 

Retired hot air balloon named Tomfoolery touching down on a lake in the woods

Tomfoolery 

My first balloon, was a 1988, 90,000 cu ft, Aerostar S-57A.

 

Tomfoolery was Retired* in 2007, after ~575 flight hrs. 

* Hot Air Balloons are Registered by their Envelopes. The fabric of a balloon envelope, typically polyurethane coated rip-stop nylon, is inspected at least annually to test tensile strength and porosity, which do eventually weaken over time and use.  More modern fabrics, including Cameron's exclusive HyperlastTM, can now last up to several hundred hours.

Hot air balloon named Whimsical lifting off from the ground

Whimsical

Is a 105,000 cu ft Cameron O-105, manufactured by Cameron Balloons US.

Manufacturer: Cameron Balloons, US (Dexter, MI)
Model: 0-105
Gores: 12
Volume (cu. ft.): 105,000
FAI Category: AX-8
Max FAA Certified Weight: 2100
Height (ft): 64
Diameter (ft): 61

RC hot air balloon named Horsefly being set up to fly

Horsefly

Is a ~3,000 cu ft Remote Controlled (RC) model balloon!

Full-size balloons average 77,000 to 90,000 cubic feet in size; think 90,000 basketballs!  RC balloons are much smaller, around 3,000 cubic feet, and use similar fabric for their envelopes, as well as uniquely-miniaturized baskets and (still-propane) burners!

RC ballooning is fast-growing in popularity, to include, like their bigger siblings, special shapes!

Although license or certification is not required, their operations still require a great deal of special attention and safety! 

Great thanks and appreciation to my Instructor and friend, D.Y.

Picture of Tom Brown and his instructor D.Y.
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