Hot-Air Balloons & Pilot Bios
Branden Bloom will be joining the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show & Balloon Festival this year for his first time. He is from Indianola, IA and will be flying his Royal Racer Balloon. He is 23 years old and his interest in balloons started when he was twelve years old. The day after he turned 16, he got his license. Branden became one of the youngest pilots to receive Rookie of the Year at the U.S. National Championships in 2012. Then in 2013 he became the youngest pilot in history to win the National Balloon Classic.
Matt Bousselot is from Marion, Iowa and has been flying since 2012. He'll be flying the Point After Balloon. Battle Creek is one of his favorite places to fly because of the wonderful people! Joining Matt on his ballooning adventures are his wife and crew chief Anne, and their fun and friendly crew!
Craig Campbell is from right here in Springfield, Michigan.He has been flying since 2000 and has owned his Hot Ziggity Balloon since 2010. He has been a licensed balloon pilot since 2013 and has flown in multiple events. He loves enjoying this wonderful sport with his beautiful wife and Crew Chief, Mindy Campbell and their 3 daughters. He loves this sport so much because of the excitement he sees on the kids' faces when he flies.
Bret Christian is from Indianola, IA and will be flying for the first time in the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show & Balloon Festival. His balloon is RessureXion. He owns and operates Serenity Balloon Adventures, LLC. Bret's passion is hot-air ballooning.
Christopher Cliver is from Lewisville, Texas. He grew up crewing for his dad, Harold "Bubba" Cliver, and was given an older balloon upon graduation from Texas A&M University in May 2013. He was taught ballooning by his dad and got his rating in May 2014, with 12 hours total time. Christopher flew his first competition event 2 weeks later and finished 13th at the Southwest Regionals. He flew in 5 more events in 2014. He was Newcomer of the Year in Indianola, IA and awarded the BFA highest ranked Rookie for 2014.
His balloon is being made for late delivery and will be published, along with his balloon name at that time.
Harold "Bubba" Cliver is from Lewisville Texas. He has been a licensed hot-air balloon pilot since 1987. When he's not ballooning for pleasure or competition, he is a professional pilot. Bubba is returning for his 8th year to compete in the Field of Flight Hot-Air Balloon Competition. He'll be flying his balloon called Bubbaballoon, pictured here.
Bubba placed #9 in the 2013 Hot-Air Balloon Competition.
Larry Coan is from Livonia, Michigan. He is an engineer for the Ford Motor Company. He is married to his wife Amy and together they have two children, Teri and Robin.
Larry has been involved in hot-air ballooning since 1988 when he took his first ride. The rest is history. He has been a balloon pilot since 2005.
The name of his balloon is "Superfluous", pronounced su·PER-flu·ous, which means being more than is sufficient or required; excessive. This will be his 12th year participating in the Battle Creek Field of Flight.
Larry placed #10 in 2016 and #4 in the 2011 hot-air balloon competition.
Battle Creek, Michigan's own Deven Cook will be participating in this year's Field of Flight Hot-Air Balloon Competition with his Even Higher balloon. He has been around hot-air ballooning since the early 1970's and crewed for many pilots across the country. He became a licensed hot-air balloon pilot in 2009 and now has a commercial rating. He is the operator and owner of Winds of Freedom Hot Air Ballooning in Battle Creek.
He is an Air Force Veteran and is employed as a Cyber Security Officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs at the VA Medical Center in Battle Creek. Deven and his wife Lindsey have 4 kids (and expecting twins in May!), Elizabeth, Gabby, D.J., and Abigail (pictured with daddy).
Weston Dickerson is from Battle Creek, MI and will be competing for the first time in the Battle Creek Hot-Air Balloon Championships flying the Post Sugar Bear Balloon. Wes started flying hot-air balloons in 1980. He received his private pilot license in 1981 and his commercial license in 1983. He has flown in all the world events held in Battle Creek as well as many of the international events. Wes is now a retired engineer, enjoying the life of a hot-air balloon pilot.
Originally from Indianola, IA, Aaron Foelske joins us from Channonhon, IL and will be flying in the Battle Creek Field of Flight Hot-Air Balloon Competition in his balloon called The Hummingbird Balloon. In previous years he flew his balloon called Basket Case. He started flying hot-air balloons in 2001. When Aaron is not flying his balloon, he is an Engineer for Southern Company Gas. Aaron won 6th place in the 2016 hot-air balloon championship.
Mike "Hef" Heffron will be competing for the first time in the Battle Creek Hot-Air Balloon Championship flying his Bright Idea Balloon. He has been involved in hot-air ballooning since 1983. His goal is to be a blessing to others and share the love of Jesus Christ through flying hot-air balloons.
Tyler Jaques is from Battle Creek, Michigan. He has been a licensed balloon pilot since 2007 and has over 230 hours being pilot-in-command. This will be Tyler's 8th year competing in the event but he has crewed at the event since he was a child. He became interested in hot-air ballooning because his father, Dave Jaques, is also a pilot of the Post Cutting Edge balloon. It truly is great for him to be participating. Tyler's balloon is the "Post - Cutting Edge" Balloon. He previously flew the red and white Post 2 balloon. His crew is made up of Post Balloon Club members as well as local volunteers.
Tyler is presently a manager at Meijer and owns his own hot-air balloon ride company called BC Balloon Rides where he pilots his balloon called Sapphire. He has a daughter named Brittney and his girlfriend's name is Erica Brandt.
LIKE the BC Balloon Rides Facebook Page.
LIKE the Post Balloon Club Facebook Page.
Kenny Jay will be flying his Mai'ken Memories balloon for the second time in this year's Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show & Balloon Festival. He got his LTA private license in 2010 and has enjoyed competitive flying in 11 different states.
Kevin Kamp has been a licensed hot-air balloon pilot since 2002, but has been around the sport since 1986 when a friend asked him to come crew for Susan Stamats, another long time participant in the Field of Flight. Kevin spent 16 years as crew before getting his own balloon and pilot's license. Kevin and his family reside in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and he makes his living as a Professional Photographer. The name of Kevin's balloon is "Linn-'Air'-ea". This will be his 6th year participating in the Battle Creek Field of Flight Hot-Air Balloon Competition.
Rick Kerber is from Wayland, Michigan. Rick came from a family of balloonists. He started flying hot-air balloons when he was 16. He has been a licensed balloon pilot since 2002 with over 510 hours as pilot in command of a balloon. Rick has been a rental manager at Michigan CAT for 32 years. He is married to his wife Cris and has two daughters, Jennie & Megan.
Rick flies the Michigan CAT/The Cat Rental Store Balloon. This will be his 11th year participating in the event. Rick's family will be his crew. Rick placed #9 in 2016 and #15 in the 2012 Field of Flight hot-air balloon competition. Welcome back Rick!
Jayson Kimball is from Napa, CA and is the owner & operator of Napa Valley Aloft Balloon Rides in Northern California and will be flying his Out of the Blue Balloon. A second-generation balloon pilot, he's been around Ballooning his whole life. He took his first balloon flight at 6 months old, and have been obsessed with Ballooning ever since. Jayson has almost 3000 hours of commercial pilot in command experience. This will be Jayson's first year participating in the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show & Balloon Festival.
Jeremy King was born and raised in Indianola Iowa, where the National Hot-Air Balloon Championships used to be held, so he has been around the hot-air ballooning world all his life. He started as a baby being pulled around the balloon field in a wagon while his mother sold programs. As he got older he was able to sell programs himself. At the age of 14 he signed up to crew and right there knew he wanted to be a pilot someday. It took many years of crewing and flying with friends before he decided to go get a balloon and license himself.
In 2003 Jeremy started training in a friend's balloon. In early 2004 Jeremy talked his crew chief into driving to Florida to pick up a balloon. He has been a licensed hot-air balloon pilot since 2005 and he received his commercial license in June 2008. Now he is training some of his crew to become pilots.
Jeremy is a handyman as well as the proud dad of his son, Cooper Wade King. He will be flying a new balloon this year and he flies for "HBC Specialized Contracting". Jeremy truly loves to be in the air and see the faces of people when he comes floating by. His crew consists of Brad Morris and Jean & Courtney Grant.This will be his 8th year participating the event.
Janet Lutkus lives in Medina, Ohio with her husband Jerry and their 12-year-old daughter Grace. She started out ballooning by crewing in 1985 for her sisters and a great friend. Janet was coaxed into learning to fly in 1992 and received her commercial rating in 1997. She has flown in Battle Creek before, but it has been many years since she has been back, so she looks forward to flying the event again this year. Janet's crew consists of her family, great friends and people who want to get involved with ballooning. Hot-Air-Ballooning is such a great sport to share with people.
Steve Mitchell is from Streetsboro, Ohio. Steve grew up in Battle Creek and was a 2003 graduate of Lakeview High School and 2008 graduate of Michigan State University. His parents, Jeff and Mary Mitchell, live just 1/2 mile south of the W.K. Kellogg Airport. While in high school he volunteered to crew for out of town pilots with his brother and loved it so much, they decided to get a family balloon called "Summer Glow", which has been involved in previous Field of Flight events. Steve will be flying his Old Cat balloon in this year's competition.
Steve has been a licensed balloon pilot since 2008. He is an accomplished competitor having won a number of various ballooning events. He also claimed Rookie of the Year honors at the 2014 US National Hot-Air Balloon Championship finishing 19th overall.
Steve placed # 3 in 2016 and #14 in the 2014 Field of Flight Hot-Air Balloon Competition and this is his 5th year participating in the event.
Michael "One Burn Too Many Mike" Moore is from Augusta, Michigan. He got into ballooning by crewing for Dale Wilson, Lori, his wife, actually is the one that named my balloon, Shenanigans. After buying my balloon in 2002, she asked if I had a name for it yet and I replied, "I was going to treat it like a new puppy. After you have it for a while, a name usually just comes to you." She said, "Good idea cause Lord knows the SHENANIGANS you're gonna pull...!" And the rest is history.
The Battle Creek event is, of course, my favorite event being the first I ever attended, so I look forward to participating every year, especially now that I'm retired. Join the Hot Air Balloon Floaters Association group on Facebook.
Al Nels launched his first hot-air balloon at age 11 followed shortly thereafter with a hydrogen balloon. Those first balloons were made from dry-cleaning bags, the former powered by birthday candles. After getting his first ride in a hot-air balloon while in college, he embraced the sport and earned his commercial license about a month after that first ride. After a few years of sport ballooning Al entered competitive ballooning with gusto. Over the years he has won multiple United States Nationals and World Championships in hot-air balloons. He has served as competition director for multiple events and as the Team Manager for the US Team at several World Championships. Al holds commercial ratings for balloons ( gas and hot-air) and instrument airplane. He is a recent recipient of the Ed Yost Master Pilot Award.
Returning to Battle Creek for his 4th year, Andrew 'AJ' Nels, from Atlanta, Georgia will be flying his new balloon called Astro Racer in the Field of Flight Balloon Competition. His old balloon was Big Red Balloon. AJ has been a licensed hot-air balloon pilot since 2005. When he's not flying his balloon, he is employed at an Engineer at Delta Airlines. AJ placed #8 in the 2016 hot-air balloon championship.
Rob Nutting, from Carlisle, IA, will be competing for the first time in the Battle Creek Field of Flight Hot-Air Balloon Championships in his Wicked Balloon. At age 5, Rob had his first hot-air balloon flight and at age 21 received his Pilot License. Rob is 16 years active duty Air Force, married and has two wonderful children. Thank you for your service and good luck in the competitions!
Richard Parr will be flying Racing Venture in his 4th Field of Flight Hot-Air Balloon Competition this year in Battle Creek. Richard started flying in 1959 and took up ballooning after retirement and has been a licensed hot-air balloon pilot since 2007 and has logged over 405 pilot-in-command hours. He went to Purdue University Engineering School followed by 5 years as a Navigator in the USAF. He was a manager for Cargill Inc. for 35 years and lived in 4 countries and many locations. Presently Richard lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina on a private air strip with his wife Lindy.
Jeff Pestun is from Holland, Michigan and is a native of Battle Creek area watching hot-air balloons and then crewing his first balloon when he was only 8 years old. He has been a licensed hot-air balloon pilot since 1999 with over 400 hours as pilot-in-command of a balloon. He presently works in for Hope College. Jeff is married to his wife Robyn and has two children, Andrew and Allison. The name of his balloon is "Special Purpose" which is a reference to the movie "The Jerk". This will be his 15th year participating in the Field of Flight Balloon Competition. Jeff is a fan of Trace Christenson and admirer of Amy Coan and Erica Hahn (the famous balloonists not the TV character that may or may not be based on her).
Jeff placed #4 in 2011, #11 in 2013 & 2012 and #9 in 2011 in the hot-air balloon competitions.
Shawn Raya is from Oxford, Michigan. Shawn grew up with his dad flying the Father & Son Construction balloon. He has been a licensed balloon pilot since 1987. Shawn is a purchasing manager at RHK Technology. He has a wife named Sandra and 4 kids; Joshua, Audrianna, Ashley & Victoria.
Shawn will be flying a new balloon with the "Sullair" banner. This will be his 13th year participating in the event. Shawn's family helps him crew the balloon.
Shawn has placed in the top 10 for the last several years, placing #7 in 2016, #4 in 2015, #5 in 2014, #7 in 2013, #8 in 2012 and #3 in 2011 in the hot-air balloon competitions.
Eric Reeder is from Ravenna, Michigan. He, his wife Amy and two children, Chloe & Owen, love to do ballooning as a family. Eric has been around ballooning his entire life, spending many years crewing for close family friends Doug & Karen Mills. He was even able to spend a month ballooning in Africa with the Mills family in 1999. After many years of loving the sport he finally decided it was his time and got his Private Balloon Pilot License in 2014. We have since spent the past 2 1/2 years taking friends and family up in our beautiful Freedom Balloon. Eric loves sharing his passion for ballooning with others and we are honored and look forward to our first time flying at the Battle Creek Hot-Air Balloon Championships. He will be flying his Freedom Balloon.
Daniel Reusch is from Peoria, Illinois and will be participating in his 3rd Battle Creek Field of Flight Hot-Air Balloon Competition. He has been a licensed hot-air balloon pilot since 2005 and has logged over 272 pilot-in-command hours. When Daniel is not flying his balloon he is employed as a Technician for an Engineering Company. This year he will be flying his new balloon called Sub Divo. His previous balloon was Why Knot.
Pat Rolfe is from Battle Creek, Michigan. He has been a licensed hot-air balloon pilot since 2006 and has over 321 hours as pilot-in-command of a balloon. He is a retired maintenance engineer for the Kellogg Company. He has a wife named Cindy and 4 children; Patrick, Jennifer, Michael & Russell. He also has three grandchildren named Trevor, Madison and Natalie. The name of his balloon is "Firewalker". There's a long story behind the balloon name...a bunch of guys around a campfire late at night being crazy...walking across a log on fire... This is Pat's 32nd year participating in the Field of Flight Hot-Air Balloon Competition in any way, shape or form. Pat crewed for Dave Emmeret for 25 years and now the tables have turned and Dave, who is now a retired balloon pilot after 30 years of flying, is Pat's crew chief.
Tom "Old Fart" Roush is from Tallassee, Tennessee. He loves aviation and has been a licensed fixed wing pilot for 57 years and a licensed hot-air balloon since 1980. He worked for Kraft and Post Foods for 25 years and retired in 1995. The name of his balloon is "Git-R-Done". He has participated in EVERY SINGLE Battle Creek Event since the Pre-World's in 1980. In ballooning, he most enjoys competition and has been fortunate to fly in 8 foreign countries. "I'm 73 & if I'm going to do it, I'd better "Git-R-Done" (this is his reasoning for the name of the balloon) His wife's name is Pat and they have 2 kids Laura & Patrick. Tom restores antique airplanes and flies it along with a home-built experimental.
Tom placed #4 in the 2011 hot-air balloon competition.
Steve Sitko is from Jackson, MI and will be debuting this year in the Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show & Balloons Festival in his Maveryx balloon. He placed 1st in the 2016 Jackson Hot-Air Jubilee. Steve loves to fly and see the reactions from the kids of all ages upon landing his balloon.
Chris Smart, also known as CCD (Chris Can Do), is from Huntington, Indiana. Chris returns to Battle Creek for his 5th year flying his Dream Racer Balloon with the Blu Fish Consulting banner. He got into hot-air ballooning as a family hobby, and for the love of flight over 24 years ago. He has logged over 1400 pilot-in-command hours, and just as many fond memories. He loves flying with his brothers from other mothers, as they are all Top Dogs in his eyes.
Chris has finished in the top 10 every year since starting in Battle Creek, placing # 9 in 2014 & #6 in 2013 & in 2012 in the Battle Creek Field of Flight Hot-Air Balloon Competition.
Susan Stamats is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She saw a hot-air balloon and then she was hooked. She now has been a licensed balloon pilot since 1986. Susan flies the "Alley Cat" balloon. She has participated in every event at the Battle Creek Field of Flight Hot-Air Balloon Competitions except one. She says her balloon crew is the Best in the World!
Chuck Walz is from Munith, Michigan. Before becoming a pilot, Chuck was on a balloon crew. He has been a licensed hot-air balloon pilot since 1993. Chuck is retired from Jackson County Road Commission. He has a wife named Cindy and has a son named Brian. He has participated in this event for many years. He will be flying the "Lucky Max" balloon. Chuck placed #13 in the 2013 Hot-Air Balloon Competition.
Justin Wilkinson is from Bermuda Dunes, CA and will be competing for the first time in the Battle Creek Hot-Air Balloon Championships flying his Fireball Balloon. He has been flying hot-air balloons for the majority of his life. He received his private license at the age of 17 and commercial license at 18. Since 2004, he has flown passenger rides for his dad's company, Fantasy Balloon Flights. Justin has flown everything from 30,000 cubic foot hopper to a 300,000 cubic foot 16 passenger ride balloon, but his favorite is flying his dad's Lindstrand Racer.
Steve Wilkinson has been a hot-air balloon pilot for 38 years and is from Palm Desert, CA and will be flying his Limoncello Lemon Balloon in his first Battle Creek Field of Flight Balloon Championships. Steve owns and operates Fantasy Balloon Flights and Cafe Italia.
Dale "Captain Boomerang" Wilson is from Augusta, Michigan. After crewing in the 1981 World's Championship, he bought his first hot-air balloon in 1987. He has been a licensed balloon pilot since 1988. He is retired from AT&T. His wife's name is Lori. His mother-in-law came up with the name of his balloon "Seventh Heaven". This will be his 33rd year participating in the Battle Creek event. Dale's crew consists of members with an average age in the 60's.
Joe Zvada is from McAllen, Texas. He has been a licensed balloon pilot since 2002 and has over 650 hours as pilot-in-command of a balloon. He presently works as an Aircraft Scheduler/Dispatch for Charter Company. The name of his balloon is "Bumbled". This was his 11th year participating in the event. Check out the Balloon Pong website.
Joe won 5th place in 2016, 6th place in 2014 and 1st place in the 2013 in the hot-air balloon competition and placed #9 in 2012 and #11 in 2011.