The pilot

In order to carry passengers for hire, balloonists must have a commercial balloon pilot’s license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ground school, a written test, a flight test and an oral test must all be successfully completed, along with dozens of hours of training, solo flights and a flight to at least 3,000 feet.

Greg Livadas, chief pilot for High Hopes Balloon Co., began his balloon training in 1978 and earned his balloon pilot’s license before his driver’s license. He earned his commercial license in 1982 and has flown thousands of passengers in hundreds of flights. He has flown in numerous states and balloon festivals, including the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico.

The balloon

A balloon is a federally registered aircraft. Just like an airplane, blimp or helicopter, they must be inspected every year or 100 flight hours.

The fabric alone weighs about 200 pounds and is made of colorful rip-stop nylon, containing miles of thread. Our baskets are wicker, which are lightweight, traditional and act as a shock absorber when we land.

There have been four balloons in the High Hopes fleet over the years, and all have been black and rainbow. Our most recent balloon is called “Yeowza.” It holds 90,000 cubic feet of air and is about eight stories tall.