Our 2016 Balloon Pilots

With decades of experience at our festival and beyond our Balloon Meister, Bill Whidden, brings us the best pilots in the country!

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Bill Whidden has been coming to the Quechee Balloon Festival for over 25 years and has served as the “Balloonmeister “(director of flying events) for the last 15 years. Being a “flatlander” from Florida, Bill and his wife and crew chief, Trish, have always considered Quechee as one of the more beautiful and enchanting venues to fly Hot Air Balloons. Having flown in most of the contiguous 48 states, and 10 foreign countries and logging over 3000 airtime hours in hot air, gas balloons and “Blimps” they still look forward to “Father’s Day” weekend in the lovely Quechee Village.

Chris Ritland moved to Quechee and attended his first balloon festival at age three, and has attended them every year since.  Accompanied by family and friends Chris started assisting the yellow teddy bear balloon as chase crew during this festival.  He got his first flight here in Quechee at age seven, and would learn how to fly during summer break following his freshman year of college at UVM five years ago.  Chris is extremely excited to be a piloting in his hometown, and to now fly in the event that first opened his eyes to magical sport of ballooning exactly 20 years ago.

Paul Sena from Worthington, Massachusetts,  I started ballooning in 1990 with my wife Judy and sons Logan and Jared as faithful crew. Being raised on a farm in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, makes me feel right at home in Quechee. At this time I have flown over 2,000 flights through out the world including Ireland, New Zealand,Costa Rica and  United States. During the winter, I’m busy making maple syrup from over 11,000 trees on our farm, however summer time is for flying above the endless hills and maple trees far below. Once you have flown in a balloon you then become ” A bottom dweller in our sea of air ”  Soft Landings

Mary Beth & Dick Young are thrilled to be Flying in their 19th Quechee Balloon Festival.  The mountains and valleys are gorgeous, the people are friendly and welcoming, . . . who can resist Flying here at Quechee?  There is no way to describe the feelings of tranquility, peacefulness, and joy when one is floating along at the tree tops, or savoring 360° views of the Green Mountains.  Vermont is even more beautiful from a hot air balloon!

Chris Mooney “At the time, I took my first Hot Air Balloon ride I was actively looking at any and every business I came in contact with as something I might want to get involved with personally.  Being single at the time gave me a lot of latitude.  As a people person and loving to fly, ballooning seemed to be a perfect fit.  Sharing this most natural high with other people on a full time business bases was just the thing for me.  As for Quechee, it has all the eliminates for a great festival.  Top-notch organization, terrific flying area, wonderful landowners, and the very best pilots and crews.” This is his 9th year at the Quechee Balloon Festival.

Jack Edling received his Fixed Wing Pilot License when he was a Boy Scouts at age 16, and has been a Hot Air Balloon Pilot since 1985. He flies in the area Northwest of Philadelphia, PA and attends about eight balloon festivals per year. He was been a board member of Great Eastern Balloon Association from 1998-2006, and was President of the Great Eastern Balloon Association from 2004-2006. He enjoys flying large inflatable animal kites when it is too windy for hot air balloon flights, and also enjoys throwing boomerangs- yes they do fly and return but you have to catch them for the flight to be counted in competition.

Jason Boucher  is a second generation hot air balloon pilot from Chester, NH. In 2004 Jason decided he wanted to take his love of ballooning to a new height and in just 10 short months Jason accomplished his goal and became a commercial hot air balloon pilot. He has flown in NJ, NY, ME, CT, MA, VT, NH and Canada logging in over 700 hours of flight time.

Gary Lovell attended the Quechee Balloon Festival in 1987 and fell in love with the ideal ballooning here, becoming a resident and full time balloonist by the late 90’s. Balloons Over New England, Gary and his brother Ken, are part of a number of exciting balloon adventures. Including holding the record for flying across the United States, Flying over Mt Washington and helping construct the world’s largest hot air balloon, Miss Champagne, in 1993. Learn more about Gary online.

Ken Levesque, “My 1st hot air balloon ride was in 2001 at the NJ balloon festival when I was crewing for Ron Martin from Florida. The very next day I searched out to find the FAA to become a student hot air balloon pilot. At this time I work a full time job and fly 50 to 60 flights per year as pilot and co-owner of U-Ken-Do Ballooning. You’ll as find us on Facebook as well. I currently fly mostly in Vermont and upper New York area as a commercial pilot and instructor. Hope you’ll come out and see us , even if it is just to see what ballooning is all about. So pack your camera and bring your whole family out to see us. we’d love to meet you.”

James Rodrigue – Around 1994, Jim and family started crewing for his cousin Andre and other pilots during their local Great Falls Balloon Festival, as well as in Quechee. He took his first pilot lesson with Balloon Meister Bill Whidden, and was forever hooked. Jim earned his private license in 1999 and commercial in 2000, and has flown in ME, NH, VT, MA, NY, NJ, OH, and Canada. Since 2009, he has enjoyed flying at the Quechee festival. Check us out on Facebook at Androscoggin Balloon Adventures.

Joe Hamilton, the senior, has been flying balloons since 1984.  He immediately decided to make this an up side to his regular job as chief probation officer.  Now retired he is looking forward to flying in festivals across the country.  His most memorable flight was last January, traveling from Sturbridge Village to Mansfield in Massachusetts, a distance of 60 miles in 3 hours, and viewing the world from 12,500 ft.   Joe flies “Six Pack”, whose name can be taken many ways but truly is his passenger capability.

Larry Konash started his aviation career at aged 12.  He was known to have “flown” hot air balloons made from plastic dry cleaner bags he “borrowed” from his mother’s dresses.  A little tape, cotton and lighter fluid was all he needed to start “flying” the smoke balloons around the neighborhood.Years later at aged 21 he received his fixed wing pilot certificate and the rest is history.  He rented airplanes for the first few years until he purchased his first of many aircraft.  He and his Piper Cherokee flew all over the United States with his trips west into the Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon, and Jackson Hole.   At about the same time Larry broadened his flying experiences with hot air balloons.  He could be found flying every weekend. Today, Larry has logged over 3300 hours in the air.

Walt Rudy has been a Commercial Hot Air Balloon Pilot since 1984 and has flown over 1,100 hours. He has also been a Fixed Wing Private Pilot since 1977. His other interests include being members of an Inflation Team- he and his wife are co-pilots for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He also enjoys sailboating, and was the past president of the Central Ohio Balloon Club.

Eric La Montagne took his first hot air balloon flight in 1983 at the age of six with his parents. Since then, flying and building balloons has been a wonderful adventure. After a time away from the sport, Eric’s interest in ballooning was renewed in 2014. Eric flew in last year’s Quechee festival and hopes to fly in many more. Eric and his family enjoy flying in Vermont and their home state of Rhode Island.

Darrek Daoust, “Every flight is a new adventure.  What is most enjoyable is the great people you are able to meet from all over the world. From Bermuda to the Azores, Cape Town to Moscow.  Darrek began his hot air ballooning career as crew in the mid 1990’s, but before too long, realized that he wanted his own balloon.  Darrek graduated from a 141 Flight School located in Park City, Utah.  Darrek is a FAA Certified Commercial Pilot, flying year round in Quechee. He has had the pleasure of flying in Italy, parts of Europe and Canada.

Mark Schilling, a resident of Cambridge Vermont, has been a commercial balloon pilot for over 30 years, flying conventional balloons, hot air airships, special shapes and experimental aircraft. His current area of expertise is special shapes, which he has flown in the United States, Canada, Mexico Ireland and Japan. Mark especially enjoys winter flying, splash and dash landings, dawn patrol flights, and his homebuilt cloudhopper. Learn more about him at www.vtballoons.com.

Bill Colyer has been flying since 1974 in the USA, Canada, Europe, and New Zealand.  He still attends the Irish Championships each year and participates in many balloon festivals in the Northeast USA.  Over the years he has won many awards for his flying.  Quechee, VT. is one of his favorite flying areas because of the outstanding terrain for ballooning. “We plan to come for many more years! If I don’t see ya in the pasture, I’ll see ya in the future!”

Dennis Wesler, “I became hooked on ballooning in 1982 upon taking my first ride. My wife said she knew that I was going to buy a balloon because I was asking our pilot so many questions.  I became a balloon pilot in 1983 and over the last thirty two years have flown in rallies throughout the US and Canada. Quechee, Vermont is one of my favorite balloon events.  The countryside is absolutely breathtaking and the people we encounter here are fantastic.  Lifting off from our launch site we immediately encounter the beauty of the old covered bridge just downstream of the falls at the old glass factory.  Just over the next ridge is the Queechee river gorge.  What could be more beautiful?  Most folks here greet us with a smile and are always willing to offer a helping hand.”

Derald Young started his career in the 1960’s while attending the University of Maine. He received his private fixed wing pilot’s license in 1970.   In 1971 he saw his first balloon and he was hooked!  Derald  served as a naval flight officer for the U.S. Navy and then returned to his family home in the Bangor, Maine area. He learned to fly Hot Air Balloons and started Damn Yankee Balloons Inc., which offered passenger flights and student instruction. In 1985 Derald set a record as the very first pilot to cross Northumberland Straight in a Hot Air Balloon, which lies between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, Canada.  He flew 13 miles over ocean and landed on Prince Edward Island’s towering cliffs. Since that time he has flown over 3,000 hours in 10 U.S. states and 6 Canadian provinces.

Johann Francois Freve My first flight was when I was a foetus. At that time, my mom was one of the first lady pilot in Quebec and she taught my father to become a pilot too. After many flights as a passenger and participate to festival as a crew member, I began as a student pilot at the age of 16. I became a pilot in 2007 and my first festival as a pilot was at the largest event in the world, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Until now, I did, as a pilot, more than 21 festivals in America and Europe. It’s only the beginning of life and I swear to visit the world in hot air balloon. For me, flying is a gift and I like to introduce people to this great experience.

Soar over the Quechee Landscape!

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Tethered Rides

A Tethered Ride gives riders a taste of Ballooning while being held down by long ropes only floating up to 50 feet in the air. They are a great way for small children or elders to experience a balloon ride. Like all other Balloon Rides, tethered ride are also weather permitting. Each ride lasts 5 – 10 minutes .Tethered rides are available for purchase during the festival weekend only, no pre-sales, for $20.

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Ascension Rides

An Ascension Ride or the typical balloon ride is between 30 – 40 minutes with the whole experience taking about 2 hours. The balloons take off together and soar hundreds of feet in the air, gracefully moving over the landscapes of Quechee, VT and beyond. The balloons land outside the festival grounds, end with champagne and transportation back to the festival. They are available for purchase before and during the festival for $235.00. All balloon rides are wind and weather dependent.