Cornelius van der Walt
On a lazy October morning, a couple of hours after sunrise, I woke up slightly different than other mornings. The fact that there should not have been a single person around for many miles made the alarm a little more nerve wrecking. I was house-sitting Rowan and Margita's plot in the Swakop Riverbed in Namibia and taking care of their two dogs, Tessa and Bones. Tessa would steal my shirts and bury them in the desert. Rowan and Margita's fingerprints were on every log, every nail and every brick. I had braai outside every night for myself and the dogs. During the day you could hear the put-put-put of the old Lister generator running, and when you switched it off at night it almost felt as if you could see further in the dark when the noise of the diesel engine stopped. You are very alone out there, in a good way.
I've never slipped into a pair of pants with such haste. I would like to believe you would have as well if you heard Thor unleash thunder outside your bedroom window. After clearing the stairs from the balcony with probably one leap, I saw the basket with about 8 passengers under a colorful balloon gently floating no more than 20 feet over my head, with the thundering burners controlling the stealthy giant's creeping descent and gentle landing right in front of the cabin. That was the first time I laid eyes on a hot air balloon, man's first form of flight.
My second balloon experience was my first lesson, as well as my first time in a hot air balloon.
On a roadtrip from Maryland to California, I stopped at the Bent Prop Restaurant at Skydive Arizona to have breakfast and to take a break from driving. Not long after that I bought my first hot air balloon from an Eloy local. And since then I've been returning to Eloy every winter for hot air balloon season, November to April.
I started Droplyne hot air balloon company, after being contracted by Red Bull for a film shoot. Hot air balloons were used as tethered and freeflying human powered pylons to create an aerial obstacle course for Red Bull’s Aerobatic Pilot Kirby Chambliss. The short film was to commemorate the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s first event, on June 5, 1909, which was a gas balloon race. Droplyne’s first job was flying with 3 other balloons, two helicopters and an aerobatic airplane, in a display pulled off like only Red Bull can….“pun intended”. [watch the video]
The chase crew are the cherries on the cake. Ballooning is a team sport and do we have a team!!!
Mr Burner, the master tinkerer, inventor and balloon pilot with 39 years of Ballooning experience.
John Dekowsi. JD is a pro skydiver with 14 000 skydives under his belt. Originally from Baltimore, JD escapes the harsh Maryland winters by wearing the crew chief hat in Arizona for Droplyne Balloons.
Kebe is a world champion skysurfer, carpenter and maker of things, (like bicycles carrying 15 people). He is from another planet and likes to visit earth sometimes.
Derick big beard. When he is not climbing something, or hanging from wind turbines or sprinting through the desert chasing a hot air balloon, then you can find him by looking up. He kind of likes to skydive, a lot.
DROPLYNE has two locations, Maryland and Arizona. We use Skydive Arizona in Eloy as our Arizona Location. That's why you see skydivers jumping from balloons in our picture gallery. If you are not a skydiver, I highly recommend you to stay in the basket. You will definitely have enough of a rush watching experienced skydivers leave the basket while you count down the seconds until their chutes open. Having done about 10 000 skydives myself, selling balloon jump tickets to skydivers seemed to be quite an obvious part of the business. Having said that, we ABSOLUTELY cater to those who prefer to run on a little less adrenaline and prefer to stay in the basket for a more peaceful scenic flight, that doesn't involved parachutes.
Gary 'Burner' Born
I started ballooning in 1981. I was working at a large manufacturing company in Minnesota, called Minnitonka, Inc., who had just come out with a new product called SOFTSOAP. I had never seen a hot air balloon, but when the company said they were going to purchase one to use as a floating billboard and that they were going to train a couple of managers from the company as pilots, my hand shot up to volunteer. This caused quite a bit of laughter because of my well-known fear of height.
My first flight was my first lesson and my first experience with hot air ballooning. It was January 8th, 1981, and it was eight degrees below zero. We lifted off from a snow-covered field in a small town called Chaska. We flew for over two hours and by the time we landed I was hooked. While flying, in the balloon, there was no fear. It was like looking at a picture, just a euphoric feeling that’s hard to explain.
By the spring of 1981 I had acquired my pilot's license and the next day when I burned a 6' by 12' hole in the company's beautiful balloon , I was given the nickname "Burner."
I purchased my first balloon in 1983 and by 1989 I had moved to Colorado and began my career as a full time balloon pilot. I now have six balloons, which I fly in Arizona, with over 4000 hours of balloon flight time in many states in the U.S. as well as in Austria, Prague, and the Czech Republic.
Ballooning is still as exciting today as it was that first day in Minnesota. I love to share in the excitement of my passengers as they experience the marvel of ballooning.