Documentary features Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and famed pilots

Every year, people come to Albuquerque to marvel at the sights of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Now, filmmakers from New York have put together a film showcasing the beauty of ballooning here in the Duke City.

They’ve also featured a few notable pilots who have made a big impact in the balloon community here.

“Wind Riders” is the brainchild of Director Emi Katayama. It’s a documentary that follows the stories of three hot air balloon pilots. Two of them have strong roots here in Albuquerque.

Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rhymer-Davis have flown at Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta many times. In 2010, the duo crashed their balloon off the coast of Italy in a thunderstorm during the Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race. Sixty-eight days later, a small fishing boat found their gondola with their bodies inside.

While Katayama’s film shows the beauty and awe in ballooning, she also makes a mention of the tragedy that can come from it.

“Wind Riders” also features pilot, Bill Hughes. Hughes is no stranger to Albuquerque either. He’s flown at Balloon Fiesta a few times in the 1970s and served as a vice president and board member of the Balloon Federation of America.

“Wind Riders” is set to debut at the Manhattan Film Festival on May 3. Katayama says she would like to bring the film to Albuquerque after its debut screening.

Our very own, former Sky News 13 helicopter pilot, Bob Martin, also had a hand in making this film. The director says Bob helped provide some of the aerial footage of Balloon Fiesta in the documentary.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated that Bill Hughes had trained 2700 pilots in 34 states. The script has since been changed to reflect the correct information.

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