ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s an international draw and something that’s put Albuquerque on the map — but balloon pilots are concerned. They say there’s a generational gap and ballooning could soon lose steam.
“It’s a unique sound of Albuquerque, really,” said balloon pilot Don Boyer. “We fly over neighborhoods, they hear that sound, they come out.”
For veteran pilots and crew, the unmistakable sound of a burner’s roar is reminder of their love for this unique sport. Now, a new set of faces describes the sound in their own words.
“I hear it as just pure glory,” said balloon enthusiast Adrian Bueno.
They’re the next generation of balloonists, and thanks to a special summer camp, they’re in store for a full rundown of the sport.
“It’s just a total incorporation of everything ballooning,” said camper Morgan Eaton.
Pilots say it’s an aging sport — the average age of a pilot is 50 — and tell us there’s a growing need to recruit younger pilots.
“Keeping the sport alive and keeping the balloons in the air,” said pilot Ian Whitling.
Pilot and balloon camp director Don Boyer says their goal is exactly that.
“We want to give them that spark, that inspiration to learn the sport and get involved,” explained Boyer.
The camp is nothing new. The Balloon Federation of America sponsors two a year. Thing is, it hasn’t hosted one in Albuquerque in more than a decade.
That didn’t sit right with Boyer.
“It’s really important. Albuquerque is the balloon capital of the world,” he said.
Boyer asked the federation to bring the camp back to the Duke City, and they did. Now, campers from all over the world will experience ballooning in its home base.
They’ll cover everything from safety to the science behind ballooning.
For these future balloonists, it’s a first step towards fostering a passion for flight.
“It’s a huge experience for me,” said camper Maria Kowolska.
Kowolska came all the way from Poland to attend camp.
The federation’s other balloon camp is being held, right now, in Pennsylvania.