Balloon pilot to fly hand-stitched balloon in competitions

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After Tuesday’s balloon launch, dozens of balloon pilots are set to take to the skies for competition flying.

One of them will be piloted by Missouri college student Ben Humphreys. At just 19, this is his third time flying and competing alongside other pilots at the Balloon Fiesta.

He first flew his “Arrow” balloon high over the Rio Grande in 2014, but he had to sell that balloon as part of a deal with his parents to save money during college.

This year, he’s flying his own hand-stitched black-and-yellow balloon called “Buzz.” It took him 170 hours on a sewing machine in his basement and it’s motivated him to consider pursuing a new career flight-path.

“For a while there, I thought I wanted to fly rides for a living, or flying corporate events or something like that,” said Humphreys. “Now that I’ve built a balloon, I’ve looked a little more towards the construction or manufacturing of balloons. With any luck I could be working at a balloon manufacturer in the next few years or something.”

Humphreys has actually done pretty well with his homemade balloon. He’s taken third in two other competitions this year, including one national event.

He’s hoping to rank in at least the top 15 at the Balloon Fiesta this week, but he says getting third place would be pretty cool too.

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