Wells Fargo retires hot air balloon program leaving pilots without iconic stagecoach balloon

Balloon Fiesta

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) –After over 30 years in the air, the Wells Fargo stagecoach hot air balloon will no longer be flying in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta or anywhere ever again. Hot air balloons have always been a big piece of Ron Sanchez’s life as he’s been involved with ballooning since the early ’80s, doing everything from crew work to fun and corporate flying.

“I’ve been a pilot since 2003,” said Sanchez. Ten years later in 2013, he made the jump to flying for Wells Fargo in its unforgettable stagecoach balloon.

“It’s amazing, it’s a great feeling to be flying such an iconic balloon,” said Sanchez. At nearly 15,000 pounds the balloon is hard to miss, unfortunately, it won’t be taking off again.

“We were on a six week road trip came back did Balloon Fiesta, went to another event after and then we got notice that Wells Fargo was just going to retire the program,” said Sanchez. Leaving him and the other pilots without a balloon to fly.

There was no word on why the decision was made. “It’s kind of devastating that we didn’t get to do a farewell tour with the stagecoach balloon,” said Sanchez.

For Sanchez, he wasn’t going to let this loss keep him from the skies. “Now that I don’t have a corporate balloon to fly I have to have something else that I can fly for myself,” said Sanchez.

He was able to buy one of the other Wells Fargo balloons off of them. A round one that could easily be rebranded and making it possible to keep his pilot dream going.

“It’s a great passion to be able to fly,” said Sanchez. However, the stagecoach balloon won’t get that chance again.

“It’s gonna get destroyed because it’s copyrighted,” said Sanchez which will be closing the end of an era and years full of memories. “To be up there and hear the cheers of the crowd and the kids and the pictures just everything, it was amazing,” said Sanchez.

KRQE News 13 reached out to Wells Fargo for comment, they said the following:

Wells Fargo is proud to support the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. While we have retired our hot-air balloon program, Wells Fargo remains committed to the local community and has financially sponsored the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for 2021. We have reallocated the expense of maintaining and flying a balloon program in order to build pathways and provide funding for other areas for economic advancement to include affordable housing, empowering small businesses to thrive, enabling a low-carbon environment, supporting the needs of underserved communities and advancing racial equity.”

Wells Fargo

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