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Women in STEAM

Join us during our Year of the Woman at the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum!

2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which guarantees and protects a woman's constitutional right to vote. In honor of this, the museum will celebrate the breakthroughs, achievements, and inspiring moments of females in the field of STEAM on all our social media platforms.

The women who will be highlighted are pioneers in their fields who have risen above the odds to create an example for younger generations to follow. Each month will allow followers to learn about historical female figures who changed the world with a strength that continues to shine through other women who are filling the footsteps of past trailblazers who deserve recognition.

The mission of the museum is to inspire a spirit of exploration, discovery, and achievement through experiences that engage our visitors in the history, science, sport, and art of ballooning and other innovative forms of flight.

NOMINATE A FEMALE PILOT

Nominate a Lighter-Than-Air female pilot you believe deserves recognition.

This is the Year Of The Woman at the Albuquerque Balloon Museum and we are asking for public help in finding female balloonist to include in our upcoming "Women and Ballooning" exhibit.

To nominate a female hot-air balloonist, email [email protected] with the pilot's contact information (email address MUST be included), current location and include a statement on why you believe this pilot is noteworthy.


To view all 2020 monthly theme posts, visit our social media pages on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.  View our Year of the Woman series episodes or all of our online content today on our Virtual Tours & Digital Engagement page.

2020 Monthly Themes

January - Female PilotsFemale Pilots - January 2020 Campaign.png

 

February - Women in TechnologyWomen in Technology.png

March - Female PioneersMarch 2020.png

April - Women of NASAWomen Of NASA theme.jpg

 May - Female ExplorersFemale Explorers theme.jpg

 June - Hall of Fame Female InducteesHall Of Fame - June 2020.png

 July - Female Engineers of Aerial DiscoveryJuly 2020 - Aerial Female Engineers.png

August - ChampionsAugust 2020 - Champions.png

 September - The Ninety-NinesYear of the Woman - Sept 2020.png

October - Balloon Fiesta HistoryOctober 2020.png

 November - Balloons in the MilitaryNov 2020 - Balloons in the Military.png

 December - Coming soon...

2020 Female Features

January's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot 
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Savannah Noel Bradley

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February's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot
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  Caryn Welz
 
 
March's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot 
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 Barbara Frick
 
 
April's Featured Female Pilot
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Jeannette Ridlon Piccard
 
 
May's Featured Female Arial Artist

Marie Merton

Learn More

June's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot 
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Cheryl Mathews Lété
 

Read Full Interview

July's Featured Hot Air Balloon PilotL Pritchard - 4.jpgLesley Pritchard

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August's Featured Hot Air Balloon PilotNeida Courtney - August 2020.pngNeida Courtney

Read Full Interview

September's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot
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Kim Vesely
 

Read Full Interview

October's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot
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Elizabeth Wright-Smith
 

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November's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot
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Charlotte Kinney
 

Read Full Interview

December's Featured Hot Air Balloon Pilot


November - Balloons in the Military

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November's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot - Charlotte Kinney


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - From 1977 to 1979 I co-owned and piloted Daytripper, a brown and white Raven Rally (small “sport” balloon). It had been used by Paul Woesner who flew for World Balloon Corporation. He had recently won the World Championships flying the balloon and sold it for a reasonable price (as I remember $3,000). I shared ownership with John Lynch.

How long have you been a pilot? I became a pilot in 1977 and flew regularly until 1984.

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? What could be more fun???  I had a close friend and sometimes roommate who dated a balloon pilot, Darryl Gunther.  They had such a good time and got me involved.  I found ballooning to be basically a “way of life” and built the rest of my life around it for several years.

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? Unlike most sports, recreational ballooning (not the competitive events) does not have a specific goal, i.e. who scores the most points.  Because the winds are unpredictable you never really know where you will land, or when. (I realize these days many pilots have the tools to predict pretty well.)  To me the challenge and the joy was in sharing the sport with others and figuring out a safe place to land.

Favorite ballooning event? Balloon Fiesta, of course. What can surpass the excitement of hundreds of balloons, either from the air or the ground, surrounded by thousands of happy and amazed spectators?

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? Sid Cutter (never thought about it before, since it doesn’t seem like an option!)

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? Flexibility, this is not a sport for the person who is anal-retentive.  Very little about the flight is certain:  you don’t know exactly how the winds will change, what obstacles you might face, where you will land, when you will land, if/when your chase crew will arrive….

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? This is one of a very few sports where women can, and do, participate on an equal level with men. It does not depend on your strength or machismo.  Often the intuition and planning ability of women makes them very successful.

October - Balloon Fiesta History

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October's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot - Elizabeth Wright-Smith


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Owner of Airborne Heat. The company owns several balloons but my favorite is a Cameron C-80 called Sandia Sun. I use it for pilot training. It is a simple, fairly lightweight system and I love the orange, yellow and purple colors.

How long have you been a pilot? I’ve been a pilot for 42 years but started getting involved in ballooning when I was a child. My father is an early USA balloonist.

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? My father, Terry Wright 

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known?

  • It isn’t as expensive as some people think. If you own a boat the expenses are about the same. You can also buy one with a partner. I’ve done that several times so it cuts the cost even more and if done right, increases the fun.
  • Flying a balloon is more of an art than a science…it is all by “feel”.

Favorite ballooning event? Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, of course!

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? Sophie Blanchard, although I’d like to live longer. What a challenge and a thrill to be the first woman to fly professionally in anything!

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? Patience.  Ballooning is weather/ wind dependent and those change frequently, especially in Albuquerque. Sometimes if you think the wind has changed and you can’t get where you wanted, if you wait a little it may change back. You also need patience since the balloon reacts slowly to the controls. It also helps to be a little mechanical, but isn’t a requirement.

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? If you want to fly you can make it happen! There are a variety of ways to get started. If you live in an area with balloons you can learn a lot by crewing and go from there. I crewed for 10 years before I became a pilot and that is fun, too!

September - The Ninety-Nines

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September's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot - Kim Vesely


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Sandia Sunlite, Sandia Sunrise II, Too Grateful - I don’t currently own a balloon; these belong to friends and family who are kind enough to let me occasionally fly their balloons.

How long have you been a pilot? 41 years. Got a student license in 1979, private rating in 1981, commercial rating in 1983.

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? After being on chase crews for some time, it was a logical next step.  I felt I needed to learn enough about how to fly a balloon so I could fly and – especially – land a balloon in an emergency.  I found I really enjoyed flying and so with the help of many friends was eventually able to pass the oral, written, and flight tests to qualify for a license.  

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? The greatest rewards in ballooning come not from the flying – although the flying is pretty cool – but from the journey: the places you go, the people you meet that you never would otherwise have come to know and who become your best friends.  With a balloon flight, you never know for certain where you will end up or what you will find there.

Favorite ballooning event? Oh, gosh, that’s like asking someone to pick a favorite child!  I really enjoy flying in Gallup (Red Rocks), Angel Fire/Eagle Nest, and many other communities in New Mexico and Colorado.  Of course, Balloon Fiesta is as amazing for the pilots as it is for those who watch.  But my very favorite “events” are our regular weekend flights in Rio Rancho with our ballooning family.  It’s great therapy, cheaper than a shrink, and to enjoy the sport we love with friends we cherish is very special. 

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? There are so many admirable people from so many different eras.  It might have been fun (gender and gout aside) to be Ben Franklin, a brilliant intellect, a bon vivant, and, by the way, present in Paris (as an ambassador during and after the Revolutionary War) for the first manned flights of both hot air and gas balloons in 1783.

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? Obviously, there are skills involved in flying and landing something six stories tall and 55 feet wide.  But an odd combination of intangibles may be equally important.  These include but are not limited to:

  • Patience, because no matter how anxious you are to get somewhere, you can only go where and as fast as the wind goes. 
  • Confidence, to know you can fly and land the balloon safely even in small spaces. 
  • Humility, because however skilled you may be, Mother Nature controls the winds and occasionally switches them up to teach you a lesson. 
  • Adaptability, because when Mother Nature teaches said lesson, you’d better have a Plan B.  (C . . . D . . . E . . .)

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? It may sound like a cliché – or a sports shoe ad – but just do it!   There are formal “tracks” for getting into the sport – taking lessons, attending a ground school (the local Albuquerque balloon club, AAAA, runs excellent ones) etc.  But most people start simply by hanging around balloons and volunteering to help.  It’s surprisingly easy.  Go to a ballooning event (or better yet, just go out at sunrise and watch balloons inflate, fly, and land on almost any (non-Covid-19) weekend).  Ask questions -- if it’s not a good time to ask questions, someone will tell you -- and volunteer to help the crew.  Most pilots and crews can always use some extra help.  Then ask, I want to learn more; how should I go about doing it?  Welcome to a whole new world!

August - Champions: Female Competition Winners & Record Breakers

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August's Featured Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Neida Courtney


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Hot Stuff, a Lindstrand 60X, pilot/owner

How long have you been a pilot? Since 1975

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? I always wanted to fly, from as early as I could remember. I started working on fixed-wing lessons when we bought the first balloons. It was so fun, (and cheaper than therapy) that I quit fixed-wing.

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? There is a concept that you have to be rich to balloon. That is not the case. There are many ways to enjoy LTA flight. Partners, clubs, flying with the person you crew for, etc. When asked what a balloon costs, my response is a question: Do you want a used Volkswagon or a new Escalade? Ballooning is not a two-person sport (generally) so get a partner and learn to fly.

Favorite ballooning event? Probably flying in Angel Fire, NM. It’s such a gorgeous area, and the mountains make the flight so special. 

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? I’ve never really thought about this! But, the first person that comes to mind, keeping the aviation theme, is Amelia Earhart. She had an adventurous spirit and blazed the way for women following in flight. She is the best known of the early women flyers because of her ability to garner financial support for her projects.

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? A certain amount of logic to be able to correctly interpret weather and wind reports. And, perhaps a like of slightly risky adventure.

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? In ballooning, once in the air, you are equal to everyone else flying! Strength is not required to fly, just your mental ability to understand the meteorologic report and utilize the information and make it work. The crew provides the “muscle” on the ground.

July - The Female Engineers of Aerial Discovery

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July's Featured Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Lesley Pritchard


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Throughout the last 50 years of my Lighter-than-Air experience I have personally owned at least 2 dozen hot air balloons. I currently own one gas balloon named “Estrella” in which I set 20 Feminine World Records for distance and duration and a “hopper” named Goldilocks.

How long have you been a pilot? I received my student license in 1969 and my Commercial LTA rating in 1972. I also earned my gas balloon rating in 1981 following very memorable flights in California and Texas. I have accumulated over 4000 hours as Pilot-in-Command in hot air and gas balloons.

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? I first became involved in ballooning at age 16 in 1968 due simply to a stroke of good luck. My father and a small group of men in Michigan formed the Flint Sport Balloon Club and I began to crew for them during the training of two pilots – my father, Frank Pritchard (aka Professor Pritchard) and Dennis Floden (aka Capt. Phogg). My dad went on to become the First BFA National Hot Air Balloon Champion in 1970 in Des Moines, Iowa and I won two National Intercollegiate Championships in 1971 and 1972 in Valparaiso, Indiana. The unusual gathering of adventurous, pioneering aeronauts and the dynamic fellowship that developed at these and other events truly inspired me. Soon after, I became involved in building experimental balloons at The Balloon Works in North Carolina and eventually built my first balloon, the “Walloon Balloon” there. I loved every aspect of this new, exciting sport though at the time I never imagined it would allow me to become a full-time professional balloonist, balloonport owner and repair station operator. I quit teaching special education in 1978 to pursue that crazy career right after the Albuquerque team of hero pilots Abruzzo, Anderson and Newman successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was able to make my first pilgrimage to the awesome Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta that October.

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? People still seem surprised to learn that the first balloon flights actually took place in France 120 years before the Wright brothers flew in Kitty Hawk. The very beginning of aviation involved lighter-than-air gas balloons and throughout history, courageous women have always been involved. The modern hot air “sport” balloon was developed in the 1960’s in the United States and there were a number of notable women – including Wilma Piccard, Vera Simons, Suzi Yost, Lucy Stefan, and others – whose early achievements contributed immensely to the renaissance of this unique form of flying.

Favorite ballooning event? While I absolutely love the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and will always cherish my memories there, I especially enjoy the small, grassroots festivals which still take place across America. I have flown in so many incredible events from coast-to-coast that it is hard to choose a favorite. On my shortlist of favorite hot air events however, I must include the Vail, Snowmass and Steamboat, Colorado events during the 1980’s and 1990’s. My favorite gas balloon event was definitely the Fountain Valley Classic which took place in California in conjunction with Tom Heinscheimer’s re-established Gordon Bennett event. With Nikki Caplan as Pilot-in-Command, I was co-pilot and it was my first gas flight. I had secured a Benihana sponsorship in order to earn my gas rating and we lifted off with a full moon rising ON my birthday!

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? Gosh, anyone in history? I have always been inspired by extraordinary women. As a young girl, I read a lot of biographies and recall with awe the lives of Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, Margaret Mead. In spite of their privilege, the adventurous spirits of Beryl Markham, Gertrude Bell, and Karen Blixen lit other fires in my imagination. If I have to pick just one, I’m going to say Georgia O’Keefe! I was an artist before I was an aeronaut and O’Keefe certainly blazed many trails on many levels.

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? I have always loved the fact that the term “aeronautics” refers to the art AND science of aviation. It is clearly essential to understand and remain focused on the physics and other technical aspects of ballooning such as micro-meteorology and topography. A successful hot air balloon pilot must also effectively manage distractions while sharing one’s enthusiasm. It is also extremely important to remember that it is the magic and beauty of balloons themselves that matters, and not the pilot’s ego which sometimes gets in the way.

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? Here are my personal rules and the ones I share with all of my crew and friends:

  1. Just show up
  2. Pay attention
  3. Don’t lose your sense of humor.

Be committed to your interests and passions and dreams since you are the only one responsible for fulfilling them. In order to do that – whatever it is, whether to plant a garden or help a friend or learn to crew or to fly a hot air balloon - you must first just “Show up.” I promise, when you do, amazing things happen and wonderous opportunities appear.

By paying attention to all of your endeavors, you will learn much and also avoid making or repeating mistakes. This will help you to become a valuable crewmember and a safe pilot. Besides, when you “Pay Attention, you are taking an important step toward ensuring the safe outcome of the flight and it is far less likely that anyone on the team will get hurt.

This is a tough one. When someone loses their sense of humor, due to a perceived slight to one’s ego or some other matter, everyone on the crew is jeopardized. The focus shifts, and as attitudes and emotions begin to erode the team, communication starts to break down. More importantly, the dynamics of risk increase. So just “Don’t lose it” and we will all have a really great time!

June - Hall of Fame Female Inductees

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June's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Cheryl Mathews Lété


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Owner of AirLoom, a 105,000 cubic foot round balloon

How long have you been a pilot? In 1978 I began flight lessons and received my LTA private pilot certificate in 1980.  A commercial certificate was obtained in 1981.  Over 40 years of flight!

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? As a child, I envisioned flying every night when I closed my eyes and I would often dream of bouncing over trees and buildings, with no idea of how I could do that. Shortly after moving to Albuquerque in 1974, I was offered a balloon ride from a friend.  Suddenly my childhood dream was manifested in the flight, the ascents, and descents, the maneuvering over buildings, trees and bushes, the bounces upon landing.  Voila!  My youthful visions made sense!

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? Pilots are also afraid of heights!  However, there is something different about stationary heights, such as being on the roof of a building, vs. heights experienced while moving through the air.  It’s amazing how many people have told me they would never fly in a balloon because they are afraid of heights … and then how many changed their minds and flew with me after all, only to discover that it was so different than they expected.

Favorite ballooning event? It’s hard to compete with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta because we get to visit with and fly with our ballooning friends from around the country and world.  But next in line is definitely the Red Rock Balloon Rally, held each December in Gallup, New Mexico.  Dancing around, up, and over the spectacular sandstone cliffs is a treat I never get tired of!

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? There are so many wonderful women and men who have made a huge impact on society.  But I have never imagined being anyone but myself!  I would simply like to be known as someone who had a positive influence on others.

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? A successful pilot will have a lot of determination and a little bit of grit, combined with plenty of common sense.  I think learning the nuances of controlling the balloon (flying) is the easiest part, as long as you have the grit to power through the unexpected moments that Mother Nature occasionally throws at you.  But there is a considerable amount of study involved to learn weather, FAA flight operations, use of navigation charts, physiology effects of flight, and more.  That’s where the determination comes in because studying isn’t the fun part of becoming a pilot!  Additionally, ballooning involves being in tune with many things around you.  It requires tapping into your reserve of common sense as well as all your other senses and applying it to the changing wind patterns to get where you want to go. 

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? "Tell yourself you can do it, and then go make it happen.  Don’t let the opinion of others stand in your way.  There’s an amazing sense of satisfaction in learning how to control a balloon … and it’s heavily linked to controlling your destiny." - Cheryl Lété, 2020

May - Female Explorers

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May's Featured Female Arial Artist - Marie Merton


To see more Balloon Museum digital content visit our Virtual Tours & Digital Engagement page.

 Marie Merton at the Balloon Museum

Marie Merton was a balloon stunt woman who traveled with well-known aeronaut Lt. George Lempriere. She ventured abroad to explore more opportunities and gained fame with aerial acts.

Her parachute & wooden ring are on display at the museum!

April - Women Of NASA

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April's Featured Female Pilot - Jeannette Ridlon Piccard 


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Jeannette Piccard was a NASA consultant during the 1960s who received her popularity and knowledge of space exploration when she became the 1st female balloon pilot to ascend to the stratosphere.
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She is well-known within the ballooning community not only by her personal achievements but also through her family connections. Married to Jean Piccard and sister-in-law to Auguste Piccard were twins that both piloted and researched high-altitude balloons. Her son Don Piccard followed in his parents' footsteps and his hot air ballooning record can be found in our Hall of Fame exhibit.
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Sometimes referred to as the first female in space, Jeannette respected others who were willing to take the same adventure. Both Jeannette Piccard and Valentina Tereshkova (1st female to travel in space) have been highlighted in our #YearOfTheWoman2020 series; therefore, to find an excerpt from the NM Space Museum showing the respect each had for one another, we simply had to share it.
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Excerpt from the NM Museum of Space History International Space Hall of Fame archive:
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At the 1975 Federation Aeronautical International conference in Mexico City, one of Piccard's sons met the world's first female cosmonaut. He told her "Comrade Tereshkova, when I told my mother I was perhaps going to meet you. She asked me to greet you." Tereshkova said, "Thank you, very much." Mr. Piccard replied, "Perhaps you don't know who my mother is. My mother is Jeannette Piccard, who piloted a balloon to 57,000 feet in 1934, more than two miles into Physiological Space. And she wanted me to congratulate you on your marvelous achievement, and on behalf of all the women in America to welcome you to Space." Tereshkova said, "I know very well who your mother is. And I am most appreciative of her good wishes, and please give her all my love."

March - Female Pioneers

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March's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Barbara Fricke


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot We, me and my husband (Peter), are on our 4th hot air balloon and 2nd gas balloon. The current hot air balloons are “Sandia Sunrise II” and “Sandia Sunlite”. Our current gas balloon is “Foxtrot Charlie”. We also share ownership of a smaller balloon flown over a chair, the “ABQ Hopper”.

Current PositionLast year, I was appointed by the FAA to be a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) for balloonists. I now give check rides and sign off applicants to be balloon pilots.

How long have you been a pilot? I earned my private pilot certificate in 1989, my commercial pilot certificate in 1991 and my gas rating in 1996. In 2005, I got a single-engine land (airplane) private pilot certificate. Between all aircraft, I have over 2700 hours in the sky and love every minute of it.

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? I first attended Fiesta in 1978 after moving to Albuquerque and was enthralled with it. I got my first ride in the “Zia” balloon in 1979. I started crewing for a pilot at Fiesta in 1982 when my work schedule allowed me to take the whole week off to play. That pilot eventually gave me some flying lessons and that was that. I attended ground school in 1988, we bought our first balloon in late 1988 and we started taking lessons. Peter was away for work during that time and I got the balloon more than him, so, I got my certificate in May and signed up for Fiesta that year. Peter got his certificate in September of that year.

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? It is a very social sport since it takes a few people to put up a balloon and pack it up after flying. That group soon becomes your social family, your buddies, and your family. We still have holiday dinners with some of the people who first started crewing for us when we started ballooning.

Favorite ballooning event? Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Gunnison Balloon Rally in Colorado and Red Rock Balloon Rally in Gallup, NM.

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? Amelia Earhart, she was such an adventurous, independent, and accomplished woman.

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? Patience, to wait for the right weather, to fly very slowly to get to where you want to be. Friendly and social, to get the right crew to help you and to deal with landowners and sponsors that you fly at rallies.

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? Go for it, you can do it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do it". -Barbara Fricke, 2020

 February - Women In Technology 

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February's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Caryn Welz

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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Currently a student pilot on “Guilty” the Lindstrand 65X mustache balloon.

Current Position

  • President of the Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association
  • Zebra Launch Director for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
  • Assistant Director of the Rio Grande Balloon Camp
  • Secretary at Balloon Explorium
  • Member of the Top Gun Competition Balloon Club

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? I decided to become a pilot when I saw the passion that could be shared. I really enjoy teaching adults and kids alike about our sport. I want to share the love of the sport and teach kids that, they too, can become a pilot, crew or whatever their heart desires. The world is such a big place and seeing it from up above can change your perspective.

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? There are so many different aspects of ballooning. You can become a ride operator and get paid! You can be a competitive pilot and travel the country and the world competing. You can fun fly in different balloon rallies around your city, state, country, and even the world. You can teach science through ballooning. You can set records and personally challenge yourself.

You don’t have to be a pilot to be involved. Look to become a crew member and learn, grow and travel with your pilot first. There’s a huge social aspect to the sport. We are all family. Everyone is willing to help everyone, both inside and out of the sport.

Favorite ballooning event? I have a Top 6.

  1. Santiago, Mexico, Cielo Magico
  2. Annonay, France
  3. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, NM
  4. Indianola, IA, National Balloon Classic
  5. Colorado Springs, CO, Labor Day Liftoff
  6. Longview, TX, Great Texas Balloon Race

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? I’d be one of the Montgolfier brothers, or maybe their sister. I’d want to be a part of the very scientific and engineering-based family that was the Montgolfiers. They were also businessmen as they owned the Montgolfier Paper factory. (Which is where they got their supplies to build the first balloon.)

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? The only real skill you need is the drive to get it done. As a pilot, you need to be able to read maps, understand airspace, have good attention, focus, situational awareness and be able to read and write English language, but all of those can all be taught over time.

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? “JUST DO IT! It’ll be hard. It’ll be fun. It’ll be rewarding. It’ll be 100% worth it.” -Caryn Welz, 2020


January - Female Pilots

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January's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Savannah Noel Bradley

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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - My family owns many balloons, however, the balloon I fly most often is our racer that I named “Heaven Help Us.”

How long have you been a pilot? I have been around ballooning my whole life with my first flight being at 5 months old. I have been a pilot since my 16th birthday on January 19, 2016.
 
What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? When I was younger, I had no interest in becoming a pilot. When I turned 13, I had fallen in love with a balloon that my family had bought to get my mom back into ballooning. She is also a pilot and stopped flying when my younger brother and I were born. This balloon was called “7th Heaven” and unfortunately doesn’t fly anymore. The youngest you can solo in a balloon is 14 and I decided that I wanted to solo in this balloon on my 14th birthday. This became my goal and I trained every weekend with my instructor, Casey Donnelly. I loved the adventure of the sport and the fact that you never landed in the same place, it is completely up to the winds of the day.
 
What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? I would like people to know how much skill is involved in flying a balloon. Even though the only control we have is vertical, which depends on how much heat we put into the balloon, it also takes a lot of knowledge of the weather and winds to fly the aircraft to where you want it to go.
 
Favorite ballooning event? My favorite ballooning event is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
 
If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? I would be Nellie Bly. She was a famous stunt journalist, well-known for going around the world in 79 days, which was inspired by Jules Vern’s “Around the World in 80 Days”. I find everything she did extremely admirable and I am fascinated by the intense stories she covered.
 
Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot?  To be a successful hot air balloon pilot, you must be able to read the weather and understand how to manipulate the winds mother nature gives you to get where you want to go.
 
What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Many people will doubt you, but don’t let that deter you. Do what you love and if you long to take to the skies, do it.

The mission of the museum is to inspire a spirit of exploration, discovery, and achievement through experiences that engage our visitors in the history, science, sport, and art of ballooning and other innovative forms of flight.

NOMINATE A FEMALE PILOT

Nominate a Lighter-Than-Air female pilot you believe deserves recognition.

This is the Year Of The Woman at the Albuquerque Balloon Museum and we are asking for public help in finding female balloonist to include in our upcoming "Women In Ballooning" exhibit.

To nominate a female hot-air balloonist, email [email protected] with the pilot's contact information (email address MUST be included), current location and include a statement on why you believe this pilot is noteworthy.


To view all 2020 monthly theme posts, visit our social media pages on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.  View our Year of the Woman series episodes or all of our online content today on our Virtual Tours & Digital Engagement page.

2020 Monthly Themes

January - Female PilotsFemale Pilots - January 2020 Campaign.png

 

February - Women in TechnologyWomen in Technology.png

March - Female PioneersMarch 2020.png

April - Women of NASAWomen Of NASA theme.jpg

 May - Female ExplorersFemale Explorers theme.jpg

 June - Hall of Fame Female InducteesHall Of Fame - June 2020.png

 July - Female Engineers of Aerial DiscoveryJuly 2020 - Aerial Female Engineers.png

August - ChampionsAugust 2020 - Champions.png

 September - The Ninety-NinesYear of the Woman - Sept 2020.png

October - Balloon Fiesta History

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November - Coming soon...

 

December - Coming soon...

2020 Female Features

January's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot 
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Savannah Noel Bradley

Read Full Interview
 
February's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot
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  Caryn Welz
 
 
March's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot 
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 Barbara Frick
 
 
April's Featured Female Pilot
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Jeannette Ridlon Piccard
 
 
May's Featured Female Arial Artist

Marie Merton

Learn More

June's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot 
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Cheryl Mathews Lété
 

Read Full Interview

July's Featured Hot Air Balloon PilotL Pritchard - 4.jpgLesley Pritchard

Read Full Interview

August's Featured Hot Air Balloon PilotNeida Courtney - August 2020.pngNeida Courtney

Read Full Interview

September's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot
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Kim Vesely
 

Read Full Interview

October's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot
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Elizabeth Wright-Smith
 

Read Full Interview

November's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot
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Charlotte Kinney
 

Read Full Interview


November - Military Pilots & Consultants

 

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November's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot - Charlotte Kinney


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - From 1977 to 1979 I co-owned and piloted Daytripper, a brown and white Raven Rally (small “sport” balloon). It had been used by Paul Woesner who flew for World Balloon Corporation. He had recently won the World Championships flying the balloon and sold it for a reasonable price (as I remember $3,000). I shared ownership with John Lynch.

How long have you been a pilot? I became a pilot in 1977 and flew regularly until 1984.

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? What could be more fun???  I had a close friend and sometimes roommate who dated a balloon pilot, Darryl Gunther.  They had such a good time and got me involved.  I found ballooning to be basically a “way of life” and built the rest of my life around it for several years.

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? Unlike most sports, recreational ballooning (not the competitive events) does not have a specific goal, i.e. who scores the most points.  Because the winds are unpredictable you never really know where you will land, or when. (I realize these days many pilots have the tools to predict pretty well.)  To me the challenge and the joy was in sharing the sport with others and figuring out a safe place to land.

Favorite ballooning event? Balloon Fiesta, of course. What can surpass the excitement of hundreds of balloons, either from the air or the ground, surrounded by thousands of happy and amazed spectators?

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? Sid Cutter (never thought about it before, since it doesn’t seem like an option!)

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? Flexibility, this is not a sport for the person who is anal-retentive.  Very little about the flight is certain:  you don’t know exactly how the winds will change, what obstacles you might face, where you will land, when you will land, if/when your chase crew will arrive….

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? This is one of a very few sports where women can, and do, participate on an equal level with men. It does not depend on your strength or machismo.  Often the intuition and planning ability of women makes them very successful.

October - Balloon Fiesta History

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October's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot - Elizabeth Wright-Smith


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Owner of Airborne Heat. The company owns several balloons but my favorite is a Cameron C-80 called Sandia Sun. I use it for pilot training. It is a simple, fairly lightweight system and I love the orange, yellow and purple colors.

How long have you been a pilot? I’ve been a pilot for 42 years but started getting involved in ballooning when I was a child. My father is an early USA balloonist.

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? My father, Terry Wright 

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known?

  • It isn’t as expensive as some people think. If you own a boat the expenses are about the same. You can also buy one with a partner. I’ve done that several times so it cuts the cost even more and if done right, increases the fun.
  • Flying a balloon is more of an art than a science…it is all by “feel”.

Favorite ballooning event? Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, of course!

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? Sophie Blanchard, although I’d like to live longer. What a challenge and a thrill to be the first woman to fly professionally in anything!

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? Patience.  Ballooning is weather/ wind dependent and those change frequently, especially in Albuquerque. Sometimes if you think the wind has changed and you can’t get where you wanted, if you wait a little it may change back. You also need patience since the balloon reacts slowly to the controls. It also helps to be a little mechanical, but isn’t a requirement.

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? If you want to fly you can make it happen! There are a variety of ways to get started. If you live in an area with balloons you can learn a lot by crewing and go from there. I crewed for 10 years before I became a pilot and that is fun, too!

September - The Ninety-Nines

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September's Featured Hot Air Balloon Local Pilot - Kim Vesely


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Sandia Sunlite, Sandia Sunrise II, Too Grateful - I don’t currently own a balloon; these belong to friends and family who are kind enough to let me occasionally fly their balloons.

How long have you been a pilot? 41 years. Got a student license in 1979, private rating in 1981, commercial rating in 1983.

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? After being on chase crews for some time, it was a logical next step.  I felt I needed to learn enough about how to fly a balloon so I could fly and – especially – land a balloon in an emergency.  I found I really enjoyed flying and so with the help of many friends was eventually able to pass the oral, written, and flight tests to qualify for a license.  

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? The greatest rewards in ballooning come not from the flying – although the flying is pretty cool – but from the journey: the places you go, the people you meet that you never would otherwise have come to know and who become your best friends.  With a balloon flight, you never know for certain where you will end up or what you will find there.

Favorite ballooning event? Oh, gosh, that’s like asking someone to pick a favorite child!  I really enjoy flying in Gallup (Red Rocks), Angel Fire/Eagle Nest, and many other communities in New Mexico and Colorado.  Of course, Balloon Fiesta is as amazing for the pilots as it is for those who watch.  But my very favorite “events” are our regular weekend flights in Rio Rancho with our ballooning family.  It’s great therapy, cheaper than a shrink, and to enjoy the sport we love with friends we cherish is very special. 

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? There are so many admirable people from so many different eras.  It might have been fun (gender and gout aside) to be Ben Franklin, a brilliant intellect, a bon vivant, and, by the way, present in Paris (as an ambassador during and after the Revolutionary War) for the first manned flights of both hot air and gas balloons in 1783.

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? Obviously, there are skills involved in flying and landing something six stories tall and 55 feet wide.  But an odd combination of intangibles may be equally important.  These include but are not limited to:

  • Patience, because no matter how anxious you are to get somewhere, you can only go where and as fast as the wind goes. 
  • Confidence, to know you can fly and land the balloon safely even in small spaces. 
  • Humility, because however skilled you may be, Mother Nature controls the winds and occasionally switches them up to teach you a lesson. 
  • Adaptability, because when Mother Nature teaches said lesson, you’d better have a Plan B.  (C . . . D . . . E . . .)

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? It may sound like a cliché – or a sports shoe ad – but just do it!   There are formal “tracks” for getting into the sport – taking lessons, attending a ground school (the local Albuquerque balloon club, AAAA, runs excellent ones) etc.  But most people start simply by hanging around balloons and volunteering to help.  It’s surprisingly easy.  Go to a ballooning event (or better yet, just go out at sunrise and watch balloons inflate, fly, and land on almost any (non-Covid-19) weekend).  Ask questions -- if it’s not a good time to ask questions, someone will tell you -- and volunteer to help the crew.  Most pilots and crews can always use some extra help.  Then ask, I want to learn more; how should I go about doing it?  Welcome to a whole new world!

August - Champions: Female Competition Winners & Record Breakers

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August's Featured Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Neida Courtney


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Hot Stuff, a Lindstrand 60X, pilot/owner

How long have you been a pilot? Since 1975

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? I always wanted to fly, from as early as I could remember. I started working on fixed-wing lessons when we bought the first balloons. It was so fun, (and cheaper than therapy) that I quit fixed-wing.

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? There is a concept that you have to be rich to balloon. That is not the case. There are many ways to enjoy LTA flight. Partners, clubs, flying with the person you crew for, etc. When asked what a balloon costs, my response is a question: Do you want a used Volkswagon or a new Escalade? Ballooning is not a two-person sport (generally) so get a partner and learn to fly.

Favorite ballooning event? Probably flying in Angel Fire, NM. It’s such a gorgeous area, and the mountains make the flight so special. 

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? I’ve never really thought about this! But, the first person that comes to mind, keeping the aviation theme, is Amelia Earhart. She had an adventurous spirit and blazed the way for women following in flight. She is the best known of the early women flyers because of her ability to garner financial support for her projects.

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? A certain amount of logic to be able to correctly interpret weather and wind reports. And, perhaps a like of slightly risky adventure.

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? In ballooning, once in the air, you are equal to everyone else flying! Strength is not required to fly, just your mental ability to understand the meteorologic report and utilize the information and make it work. The crew provides the “muscle” on the ground.

July - The Female Engineers of Aerial Discovery

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July's Featured Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Lesley Pritchard


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Throughout the last 50 years of my Lighter-than-Air experience I have personally owned at least 2 dozen hot air balloons. I currently own one gas balloon named “Estrella” in which I set 20 Feminine World Records for distance and duration and a “hopper” named Goldilocks.

How long have you been a pilot? I received my student license in 1969 and my Commercial LTA rating in 1972. I also earned my gas balloon rating in 1981 following very memorable flights in California and Texas. I have accumulated over 4000 hours as Pilot-in-Command in hot air and gas balloons.

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? I first became involved in ballooning at age 16 in 1968 due simply to a stroke of good luck. My father and a small group of men in Michigan formed the Flint Sport Balloon Club and I began to crew for them during the training of two pilots – my father, Frank Pritchard (aka Professor Pritchard) and Dennis Floden (aka Capt. Phogg). My dad went on to become the First BFA National Hot Air Balloon Champion in 1970 in Des Moines, Iowa and I won two National Intercollegiate Championships in 1971 and 1972 in Valparaiso, Indiana. The unusual gathering of adventurous, pioneering aeronauts and the dynamic fellowship that developed at these and other events truly inspired me. Soon after, I became involved in building experimental balloons at The Balloon Works in North Carolina and eventually built my first balloon, the “Walloon Balloon” there. I loved every aspect of this new, exciting sport though at the time I never imagined it would allow me to become a full-time professional balloonist, balloonport owner and repair station operator. I quit teaching special education in 1978 to pursue that crazy career right after the Albuquerque team of hero pilots Abruzzo, Anderson and Newman successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was able to make my first pilgrimage to the awesome Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta that October.

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? People still seem surprised to learn that the first balloon flights actually took place in France 120 years before the Wright brothers flew in Kitty Hawk. The very beginning of aviation involved lighter-than-air gas balloons and throughout history, courageous women have always been involved. The modern hot air “sport” balloon was developed in the 1960’s in the United States and there were a number of notable women – including Wilma Piccard, Vera Simons, Suzi Yost, Lucy Stefan, and others – whose early achievements contributed immensely to the renaissance of this unique form of flying.

Favorite ballooning event? While I absolutely love the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and will always cherish my memories there, I especially enjoy the small, grassroots festivals which still take place across America. I have flown in so many incredible events from coast-to-coast that it is hard to choose a favorite. On my shortlist of favorite hot air events however, I must include the Vail, Snowmass and Steamboat, Colorado events during the 1980’s and 1990’s. My favorite gas balloon event was definitely the Fountain Valley Classic which took place in California in conjunction with Tom Heinscheimer’s re-established Gordon Bennett event. With Nikki Caplan as Pilot-in-Command, I was co-pilot and it was my first gas flight. I had secured a Benihana sponsorship in order to earn my gas rating and we lifted off with a full moon rising ON my birthday!

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? Gosh, anyone in history? I have always been inspired by extraordinary women. As a young girl, I read a lot of biographies and recall with awe the lives of Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, Margaret Mead. In spite of their privilege, the adventurous spirits of Beryl Markham, Gertrude Bell, and Karen Blixen lit other fires in my imagination. If I have to pick just one, I’m going to say Georgia O’Keefe! I was an artist before I was an aeronaut and O’Keefe certainly blazed many trails on many levels.

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? I have always loved the fact that the term “aeronautics” refers to the art AND science of aviation. It is clearly essential to understand and remain focused on the physics and other technical aspects of ballooning such as micro-meteorology and topography. A successful hot air balloon pilot must also effectively manage distractions while sharing one’s enthusiasm. It is also extremely important to remember that it is the magic and beauty of balloons themselves that matters, and not the pilot’s ego which sometimes gets in the way.

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? Here are my personal rules and the ones I share with all of my crew and friends:

  1. Just show up
  2. Pay attention
  3. Don’t lose your sense of humor.

Be committed to your interests and passions and dreams since you are the only one responsible for fulfilling them. In order to do that – whatever it is, whether to plant a garden or help a friend or learn to crew or to fly a hot air balloon - you must first just “Show up.” I promise, when you do, amazing things happen and wonderous opportunities appear.

By paying attention to all of your endeavors, you will learn much and also avoid making or repeating mistakes. This will help you to become a valuable crewmember and a safe pilot. Besides, when you “Pay Attention, you are taking an important step toward ensuring the safe outcome of the flight and it is far less likely that anyone on the team will get hurt.

This is a tough one. When someone loses their sense of humor, due to a perceived slight to one’s ego or some other matter, everyone on the crew is jeopardized. The focus shifts, and as attitudes and emotions begin to erode the team, communication starts to break down. More importantly, the dynamics of risk increase. So just “Don’t lose it” and we will all have a really great time!

June - Hall of Fame Female Inductees

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June's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Cheryl Mathews Lété


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Owner of AirLoom, a 105,000 cubic foot round balloon

How long have you been a pilot? In 1978 I began flight lessons and received my LTA private pilot certificate in 1980.  A commercial certificate was obtained in 1981.  Over 40 years of flight!

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? As a child, I envisioned flying every night when I closed my eyes and I would often dream of bouncing over trees and buildings, with no idea of how I could do that. Shortly after moving to Albuquerque in 1974, I was offered a balloon ride from a friend.  Suddenly my childhood dream was manifested in the flight, the ascents, and descents, the maneuvering over buildings, trees and bushes, the bounces upon landing.  Voila!  My youthful visions made sense!

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? Pilots are also afraid of heights!  However, there is something different about stationary heights, such as being on the roof of a building, vs. heights experienced while moving through the air.  It’s amazing how many people have told me they would never fly in a balloon because they are afraid of heights … and then how many changed their minds and flew with me after all, only to discover that it was so different than they expected.

Favorite ballooning event? It’s hard to compete with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta because we get to visit with and fly with our ballooning friends from around the country and world.  But next in line is definitely the Red Rock Balloon Rally, held each December in Gallup, New Mexico.  Dancing around, up, and over the spectacular sandstone cliffs is a treat I never get tired of!

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? There are so many wonderful women and men who have made a huge impact on society.  But I have never imagined being anyone but myself!  I would simply like to be known as someone who had a positive influence on others.

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? A successful pilot will have a lot of determination and a little bit of grit, combined with plenty of common sense.  I think learning the nuances of controlling the balloon (flying) is the easiest part, as long as you have the grit to power through the unexpected moments that Mother Nature occasionally throws at you.  But there is a considerable amount of study involved to learn weather, FAA flight operations, use of navigation charts, physiology effects of flight, and more.  That’s where the determination comes in because studying isn’t the fun part of becoming a pilot!  Additionally, ballooning involves being in tune with many things around you.  It requires tapping into your reserve of common sense as well as all your other senses and applying it to the changing wind patterns to get where you want to go. 

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? "Tell yourself you can do it, and then go make it happen.  Don’t let the opinion of others stand in your way.  There’s an amazing sense of satisfaction in learning how to control a balloon … and it’s heavily linked to controlling your destiny." - Cheryl Lété, 2020

May - Female Explorers

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May's Featured Female Arial Artist - Marie Merton


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 Marie Merton at the Balloon Museum

Marie Merton was a balloon stunt woman who traveled with well-known aeronaut Lt. George Lempriere. She ventured abroad to explore more opportunities and gained fame with aerial acts.

Her parachute & wooden ring are on display at the museum!

April - Women Of NASA

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April's Featured Female Pilot - Jeannette Ridlon Piccard 


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Jeannette Piccard was a NASA consultant during the 1960s who received her popularity and knowledge of space exploration when she became the 1st female balloon pilot to ascend to the stratosphere.
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She is well-known within the ballooning community not only by her personal achievements but also through her family connections. Married to Jean Piccard and sister-in-law to Auguste Piccard were twins that both piloted and researched high-altitude balloons. Her son Don Piccard followed in his parents' footsteps and his hot air ballooning record can be found in our Hall of Fame exhibit.
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Sometimes referred to as the first female in space, Jeannette respected others who were willing to take the same adventure. Both Jeannette Piccard and Valentina Tereshkova (1st female to travel in space) have been highlighted in our #YearOfTheWoman2020 series; therefore, to find an excerpt from the NM Space Museum showing the respect each had for one another, we simply had to share it.
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Excerpt from the NM Museum of Space History International Space Hall of Fame archive:
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At the 1975 Federation Aeronautical International conference in Mexico City, one of Piccard's sons met the world's first female cosmonaut. He told her "Comrade Tereshkova, when I told my mother I was perhaps going to meet you. She asked me to greet you." Tereshkova said, "Thank you, very much." Mr. Piccard replied, "Perhaps you don't know who my mother is. My mother is Jeannette Piccard, who piloted a balloon to 57,000 feet in 1934, more than two miles into Physiological Space. And she wanted me to congratulate you on your marvelous achievement, and on behalf of all the women in America to welcome you to Space." Tereshkova said, "I know very well who your mother is. And I am most appreciative of her good wishes, and please give her all my love."

March - Female Pioneers

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March's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Barbara Fricke


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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot We, me and my husband (Peter), are on our 4th hot air balloon and 2nd gas balloon. The current hot air balloons are “Sandia Sunrise II” and “Sandia Sunlite”. Our current gas balloon is “Foxtrot Charlie”. We also share ownership of a smaller balloon flown over a chair, the “ABQ Hopper”.

Current PositionLast year, I was appointed by the FAA to be a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) for balloonists. I now give check rides and sign off applicants to be balloon pilots.

How long have you been a pilot? I earned my private pilot certificate in 1989, my commercial pilot certificate in 1991 and my gas rating in 1996. In 2005, I got a single-engine land (airplane) private pilot certificate. Between all aircraft, I have over 2700 hours in the sky and love every minute of it.

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? I first attended Fiesta in 1978 after moving to Albuquerque and was enthralled with it. I got my first ride in the “Zia” balloon in 1979. I started crewing for a pilot at Fiesta in 1982 when my work schedule allowed me to take the whole week off to play. That pilot eventually gave me some flying lessons and that was that. I attended ground school in 1988, we bought our first balloon in late 1988 and we started taking lessons. Peter was away for work during that time and I got the balloon more than him, so, I got my certificate in May and signed up for Fiesta that year. Peter got his certificate in September of that year.

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? It is a very social sport since it takes a few people to put up a balloon and pack it up after flying. That group soon becomes your social family, your buddies, and your family. We still have holiday dinners with some of the people who first started crewing for us when we started ballooning.

Favorite ballooning event? Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Gunnison Balloon Rally in Colorado and Red Rock Balloon Rally in Gallup, NM.

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? Amelia Earhart, she was such an adventurous, independent, and accomplished woman.

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? Patience, to wait for the right weather, to fly very slowly to get to where you want to be. Friendly and social, to get the right crew to help you and to deal with landowners and sponsors that you fly at rallies.

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? Go for it, you can do it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do it". -Barbara Fricke, 2020

 February - Women In Technology 

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February's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Caryn Welz

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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - Currently a student pilot on “Guilty” the Lindstrand 65X mustache balloon.

Current Position

  • President of the Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association
  • Zebra Launch Director for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
  • Assistant Director of the Rio Grande Balloon Camp
  • Secretary at Balloon Explorium
  • Member of the Top Gun Competition Balloon Club

What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? I decided to become a pilot when I saw the passion that could be shared. I really enjoy teaching adults and kids alike about our sport. I want to share the love of the sport and teach kids that, they too, can become a pilot, crew or whatever their heart desires. The world is such a big place and seeing it from up above can change your perspective.

What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? There are so many different aspects of ballooning. You can become a ride operator and get paid! You can be a competitive pilot and travel the country and the world competing. You can fun fly in different balloon rallies around your city, state, country, and even the world. You can teach science through ballooning. You can set records and personally challenge yourself.

You don’t have to be a pilot to be involved. Look to become a crew member and learn, grow and travel with your pilot first. There’s a huge social aspect to the sport. We are all family. Everyone is willing to help everyone, both inside and out of the sport.

Favorite ballooning event? I have a Top 6.

  1. Santiago, Mexico, Cielo Magico
  2. Annonay, France
  3. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, NM
  4. Indianola, IA, National Balloon Classic
  5. Colorado Springs, CO, Labor Day Liftoff
  6. Longview, TX, Great Texas Balloon Race

If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? I’d be one of the Montgolfier brothers, or maybe their sister. I’d want to be a part of the very scientific and engineering-based family that was the Montgolfiers. They were also businessmen as they owned the Montgolfier Paper factory. (Which is where they got their supplies to build the first balloon.)

Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot? The only real skill you need is the drive to get it done. As a pilot, you need to be able to read maps, understand airspace, have good attention, focus, situational awareness and be able to read and write English language, but all of those can all be taught over time.

What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? “JUST DO IT! It’ll be hard. It’ll be fun. It’ll be rewarding. It’ll be 100% worth it.” -Caryn Welz, 2020


January - Female Pilots

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January's Featured Local Hot Air Balloon Pilot - Savannah Noel Bradley

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Name of Hot Air Balloon you pilot - My family owns many balloons, however, the balloon I fly most often is our racer that I named “Heaven Help Us.”

How long have you been a pilot? I have been around ballooning my whole life with my first flight being at 5 months old. I have been a pilot since my 16th birthday on January 19, 2016.
 
What inspired your ambition to pursue becoming a pilot? When I was younger, I had no interest in becoming a pilot. When I turned 13, I had fallen in love with a balloon that my family had bought to get my mom back into ballooning. She is also a pilot and stopped flying when my younger brother and I were born. This balloon was called “7th Heaven” and unfortunately doesn’t fly anymore. The youngest you can solo in a balloon is 14 and I decided that I wanted to solo in this balloon on my 14th birthday. This became my goal and I trained every weekend with my instructor, Casey Donnelly. I loved the adventure of the sport and the fact that you never landed in the same place, it is completely up to the winds of the day.
 
What would you like people to know about the sport of ballooning that is not widely known? I would like people to know how much skill is involved in flying a balloon. Even though the only control we have is vertical, which depends on how much heat we put into the balloon, it also takes a lot of knowledge of the weather and winds to fly the aircraft to where you want it to go.
 
Favorite ballooning event? My favorite ballooning event is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
 
If you could be anyone in history, who would it be and why? I would be Nellie Bly. She was a famous stunt journalist, well-known for going around the world in 79 days, which was inspired by Jules Vern’s “Around the World in 80 Days”. I find everything she did extremely admirable and I am fascinated by the intense stories she covered.
 
Special talent or skill needed to be a successful hot air balloon pilot?  To be a successful hot air balloon pilot, you must be able to read the weather and understand how to manipulate the winds mother nature gives you to get where you want to go.
 
What words of encouragement or quote would you give to young women interested in becoming a hot air balloon pilot? Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Many people will doubt you, but don’t let that deter you. Do what you love and if you long to take to the skies, do it.