Inside the Basket - Eric Hodges, Balloon Fiesta Pilot
Eric Hodges is a pilot who has been flying at Balloon Fiesta for 35 years.
In this month’s Inside the Basket, Eric shares how he once was the youngest pilot at Balloon Fiesta, his favorite Balloon Fiesta memory and what it was like being back after the 49th event was postponed.
1. Give a brief overview of your ballooning background.
I started ballooning in 1981 when I was 11 years old. My mother Janet and I fell in love with the sport, by 1983 she bought our first balloon and by 1985 we were both pilots. I received my private pilot certification when I was 16 and my commercial certification when I was 18. I have been lucky enough to fly all over the country and now have over 1300 hours of flight time including taking 5 people from students to pilots.
2. How and when did you first become involved with Balloon Fiesta?
My first Balloon Fiesta was in 1985. I was 16. I was the youngest pilot in Balloon Fiesta that year. I got involved in Balloon Fiesta because it was the natural progression for pilots around Albuquerque. I had always wanted to fly in Balloon Fiesta because it is simply known as the greatest and biggest balloon rally in the world.
3. What is your favorite Balloon Fiesta memory?
My favorite Balloon Fiesta memory is in 2010 when I hit 1000 hours of flight time. I had my mother, wife and son aboard with me. It was an amazing thing to accomplish and I was very happy that it happened during Balloon Fiesta.
4. You flew in the 48th and the 49th Balloon Fiesta. What was it like being back this year for the 49th event?
After the year-long hiatus between the 48th and 49th Balloon Fiesta due to Covid, it was so surreal having Balloon Fiesta back again. It was like being able to breathe again. So amazing to see all the friends you see every year again only this time it had been two years. The event could not have been better for me.
5. What advice would you give to someone who is considering becoming a pilot?
My advice to someone who has aspirations of being a pilot is to follow that dream through. It can be a very daunting thing and sometimes it seems like it's impossible. If your dream is to fly through the invisible waves of the sky, it will be worth the time and effort. I have spent a good portion of my life there and it has enhanced my world beyond measure.
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