I saw my first balloon in the fall of 1973. A Stokes balloon came to town and tethered as a means of bringing attention & excitement to the tourist town of Helen, GA.
Then in October of 1973 a balloon was purchased to promote the town. It was a Piccard AX-6. It was tethered to stop traffic and to get publicity for the city.
It was purchased by a cousin, Lanier Chambers. He took me for my first ride in October 1973. I was a teenager and thought this was a really neat thing to do. I began crewing, helping inflate, tether and chase. It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t long before I was tethering the balloon myself and helping to draw a crowd into town.
One day in November 2013, Lanier showed up with some Ã¢â‚¬Å“newÃ¢â‚¬Â webbing tether lines he had just gotten at the Army Surplus store. We inflated and tied down the balloon to tether with the new lines. It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t long before I took my first flight as pilot in command, as the Ã¢â‚¬Å“newÃ¢â‚¬Â tether webbing broke and off I drifted down the valley.
After that inadvertent first flight as pilot in command, I went on to fly the balloon a good bit for the next year and a half, before in 1975, I became the first licensed balloon pilot in the area. The FAA discovered we all had been operating the balloon without a license and I was chosen to be the one who would get theirs first.
Since that first broken tether line, I have logged over 2500 hours in a balloon Ã¢â‚¬â€œ both hot air and gas. In addition to hot air and gas ratings, I also have a Single Engine Land airplane rating and have over 500 hours in airplanes. I have flown balloons in many places all over the world. One of the neatest flights was just this past January 2013 when we flew across the snow covered Alps in Austria in a hot air balloon.
My fascination with tethering the balloon to promote our city has grown into building balloons for a living. I designed and received FAA Type Certification approval for building balloons. Since 1975, we have built over 400 hot air balloons which are flying all over the world.