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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 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.


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.