Inside the Basket - Sam Robey, First-Time Balloon Fiesta Pilot
During Sam Robey’s first balloon ride, he proposed to his girlfriend. Now, nearly 30 years later, he will pilot a balloon at Balloon Fiesta for the first time and she is his wife and crew chief.
In this month’s Inside the Basket, Sam shares more about his ballooning story and what he is most looking forward to about experiencing Balloon Fiesta as a pilot.
1. Give a brief overview of your ballooning background.
In my first hot air balloon ride, I proposed to my girlfriend (now wife of almost 30 years and crew chief). I first started participating as a crew member 20 plus years ago. Over those years, my wife and children were also able to occasionally be involved. We enjoyed this time ballooning together. After about fifteen years of crewing, we purchased our own balloon in 2013. Once I earned my pilot certificate, we began traveling and participating in various ballooning events. We are hoping to enjoy even more of those events as we both retired in 2020 and are more free to travel now.
2. What inspired you to become a pilot?
I grew up in Longview, Texas where we have many balloon pilots in the area and Longview is the home of “The Great Texas Balloon Race”. I have always been fascinated with flying and saw the hot air balloon as an interesting way that I might be able to fly. Crewing for Bill Adler allowed me the opportunity to be around balloons, ballooning events, and other pilots. This up close exposure encouraged me to become a pilot.
3. What is your favorite ballooning memory?
If I can, I will share two or three memories. Probably the most special memory was being able to take my 82 year old Dad for a flight about nine months before he passed away. Another fun memory would be flying as a passenger with Bill Adler in Albuquerque at Balloon Fiesta. During the flight with Bill, he flew us into the field and alongside one of the poles, where we were able to put the ring on the pole! A third memory would be flying in my first competition event as a new pilot. On the second day, I was able to fly into the target and drop my marker five inches from the center of the target (still hoping to do that again soon!).
4. With this being your first year to fly at Balloon Fiesta, what are you most looking forward to?
Just getting to be a part of the experience as a pilot (I have been to Balloon Fiesta three times as a crew member) and maybe getting to fly to the pole again.
5. What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about becoming a pilot?
The same advice that I was given. That is to find a pilot and crew for them. Learn what you can from crewing and being around the balloons and the pilots. This will give you the exposure and the opportunity to make sure you love it enough to invest the time and money it takes to become a pilot and purchase your balloon.
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