Balloon pilot prepares for world championship

One way to develop a love for hot air balloons is flying with your father at the ripe old age of two.

Farmland

Farmland

One way to develop a love for hot air balloons is flying with your father at the ripe old age of two.

For Jason Adams the first time he took flight in a balloon was a defining moment as it made him want to fly as often as possible. “After my first flight I was always begging to go for more.”

Adams was one of 12 hot air balloon pilots at the Rimbey Hot Air Affair May 11 to 13 and he said the Rimbey competition was a way to get some practice in.

“I like flying out west and I’m trying to get in as much flying as possible in,” he stated.

Thirty-six years later, Adams is ranked first in Canada and he will compete at the World Hot Air Balloon Championship Aug. 17 to 25 at Battle Creek, Mich.

“The balloons are 10 times bigger than the size I’m flying here,” he said.

Trained by his father, John Adams, who was one of the first Canadians to fly with hot air balloons, Adams was given many opportunities to learn. “He sent me off to fly with other pilots so that I could get a good rounding of training with a bunch of other people.”

Adams loves the thrill of being a balloon pilot, although he recalled being forced to land among about 20 lions once.

“I kept my fingers crossed that time,” he said with a chuckle, noting the lions were amiable and simply wandered away.

Originally from Toronto, Adams will debut a new balloon by the Avian Balloon Corporation, which is designed for improved vertical performance in balloons during ascent and descent. “It’s been specially engineered for competition ballooning.”

Normally a balloon will rise and fall to catch wind currents but sometimes it will mushroom if it drops too fast. Not fearful of other balloons being too close either, Adams uses shadows from other balloons to guide him, especially if he needs to go higher.

Pilots at the Hot Air Affair made several flights throughout the weekend, some to play a game called the hound and hare, where balloonists attempted to follow the path of the balloon meister. A balloon meister is in charge of pilots and determines if it is too windy to fly as well as sets the rules of the game.

Lynn Johnson, Hot Air Affair event planner, said it took many hours of work to co-ordinate the weekend. “Besides lack of sleep, it’s been fantastic.”

Johnson volunteered at the Canadian National Championships in Camrose last year, which inspired her to organize a balloon event for Rimbey. She has since received positive feedback from people involved as well as companies who have approached her to be a sponsor next year.

“We’re definitely planning on doing it every year,” Johnson stated.

There was a bit of learning curve for her in organizing the volunteers, but she has learned what works and what is needed. “A new event always has those problems.”

She plans on meeting with the Rimbey and District Chamber of Commerce to plan for next year.

Adams, who said Rimbey was “a perfect host town” was ranked best pilot overall and there were cash prizes for pilots throughout the weekend.

By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye and Treena Mielke

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