Inside the Basket - Michael Glen, Balloon Fiesta Pilot
Michael Glen is the first parapalegic pilot. He pilots Joelly Bee, a special shape balloon in the the famous bee trio.
In this month’s Inside the Basket, Michael shares more about his inspiration for becoming a pilot and his unique balloon.
1. Give a brief overview of your ballooning background.
Ballooning for me is second nature, my father(Bill Glen) got involved in ballooning in 1973 by driving around the Albuquerque area and picking up pilots in a rental truck for the 2nd Balloon Fiesta. Then shortly after that, he got his pilot license. In February of 1975, at Balloon Fiesta, I went on my first balloon ride (a short hop) at the age of 2 weeks old. As a child I traveled all over the southwest attending balloon festivals with my family and the balloon community quickly became another family. I got my license in 2006 and continue to fly and try to inspire the children and people through my adventures to reach for their dreams.
2. What inspired you to become a pilot?
My father has always been my biggest inspiration for all I do.
3. The balloon you fly is special not just in shape, but also features a unique gondola. What is the story behind your balloon?
In 2010 I was approached by Bob Romaneschi about the idea of building a baby bee since The Little Bees had been around for a bit and it was natural for them to have a baby. My basket is a chariot, which looks like a ski lift, and is a great basket to fly as you are sitting on a chair flying in the sky.
4. What is your favorite part about flying this special shaped balloon?
Ballooning overall is a passion of mine, my favorite thing is no matter how you feel or how many times you have seen a balloon, they still turn us all into a child-like state where we stare at the beauty of a balloon floating across the sky and taking off.
5. As the first paraplegic pilot, you've been interviewed by a lot of news media. What is the most common question that you receive and what is your answer?
The most common question I get is what is my favorite place to fly? My answer is consistently Page, Arizona; the chance to fly into Antelope Canyon is still special every time I get the opportunity.
6. What advice do you have for others with physical challenges, who are interested in becoming a pilot?
Ultimately with all goals, no matter what anyone says, you can achieve it, you just have to do everything possible and not let negativity stop you from reaching your dreams. I was told "no" many times but I was determined to find a way to make it happen and every flight I get to do makes me happy I never gave up.
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