July 20, 2009
It’s the beauty, color, and imagination of hot air balloons that draws mid-Michigan residents to the Jackson Hot Air Jubilee every year.
The weekend airshow from July 17 through 19 brought more than 40 balloon pilots together at the Jackson County Airport in Michigan to share their flying experiences with one another and with the community.
“It’s a surreal experience,” said Randy Coller, a balloon pilot and long-time participant in the Jackson Hot Air Jubilee. “It's more of a ‘free’ sport in the sense that it is unpredictable…spontaneous and serendipitous. I like that. It teaches patience too.”
Corporate hot air balloon pilot Kevin Knapp describes ballooning as “peaceful and serene.” Knapp travels the country attending airshows to promote the Mayflower Transit balloon.
“Once I discovered ballooning and learned for myself how fun it is, how magical it is, how peaceful it is, how quiet it is, that's when I discovered my passion for flying balloons," said Knapp of St. Louis, Missouri.
“Ballooning is just another form of aviation,” said Chet Dziak, AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer for more than 10 years. “Events like these are important to show people the joy of flying up close and personal.” As a pilot for 20 years, Dziak knows the viability of the airport is important and works hard to keep the community involved.
Although inclement weather conditions kept the hot air balloons grounded for a majority of the time, the Jackson Hot Air Jubilee had plenty of activities planned including an arts and crafts show, a stunt kite demonstration, radio controlled airplanes, static aircraft displays, and a presentation by the Flying Aces Pro Frisbee Team.
Families gathered on the lawn along the runway to watch the Scream ‘N Rebels. Lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” were heard while WWII vintage aircraft, like the T-6 Texan, flew above paying tribute to veterans from wars of the past and those flying for our freedom today.
In these economic times, some airports have not been able to host their annual airshow because of a lack of funding. Jackson Hot Air Jubilee Treasurer Andy Walz was concerned the event might have to be put on hold, as it was last year, but the team was able to pull it together for their 26th year.
“We had to downsize a bit and had lower numbers of people because of the weather,” said Walz. “But overall it was a really nice event.”
A touch of history, affordable flying, unique sightseeing, a good meal, and a community of pilots: Isn’t that what general aviation is all about?
Getting the job done on the local and national levels requires long-term planning, a hands-on approach, and keeping the effort moving, said Sean Collins, AOPA’s Eastern regional manager.
Deep in the dense, moss-draped, oak forest of Amelia Island is a luxurious plantation resort. Check out this Florida destination while you are in the Southeast for AOPA's St. Simons, Georgia, Fly-In on Nov. 8.
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