ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Albuquerque sky on the west side was filled with hot air balloons Saturday morning. A popular balloon competition made a return to the skies for the first time this year.
“A lot of people think balloons just go fly around and they look pretty,” said Will Fitzpatrick, the President of Top Gun Competition Ballooning LLC. But Fitzpatrick knows first hand a lot of those balloons are completing different challenges.
“We launch at least a kilometer from a target,” Fitzpatrick explained. “Some targets are designated by X’s on the ground, pilots throw baggies, and try to get it as close as possible,” said Fitzpatrick.
Top Gun typically hosts competitions once a month but when the pandemic hit last year, they had to take a break until they were able to make COVID-safe changes. This weekend is the first time this year they’ve hosted a competition.
“This is really the first competition probably in the United States, to really kick off the new balloon season,” Fitzpatrick told KRQE. Nearly forty pilots participated in the three-day event, and Fitzpatrick tells us they’re all grateful to actually interact with each other for the first time in more than a year.
Each pilot earns points every day of the competition, based on how well they complete the tasks. The pilot with the most points at the end of the three days wins.