Inside the Basket - Tarp Head, Balloon Fiesta Pilot
August 29, 2022
Tarp Head is a long-time balloon expert who has participated as a pilot, in Balloon Fiesta for the past 47 years.
In this month’s Inside the Basket, Tarp shares more about how he found love for the sport of ballooning, what it’s been like to participate in Balloon Fiesta for 47 years and what he’s looking forward to most at the 50th event.
1. Give a brief overview of your ballooning background.
My fascination with balloons began in 1972 when tethering a balloon to promote the newly reborn town of Helen, GA. Helen was reborn as a Bavarian-themed village in the North Georgia mountains. It’s known for its annual Oktoberfest, Hot Air Balloon race and many other celebrations. We would tether and fly the balloon as an attraction to help bring tourist to town. My fascination has now grown to building balloons for a living.
In 1975, I became a partner at Adams Balloons. Then in 1983, I started Head Balloons Inc. Since then we have received FAA and EASA Type Certification approvals for many balloon models. We have also received numerousFAA and EASA Supplemental Type Certificates for various design modifications. We have built hundreds of hot air balloons which are flying all over the world.
I also started an FAA Certified Repair Station in 1980 and I have an FAA Repairman's certificate.
I have been designated as a DAR (Designated Airworthiness Representative) for the FAA. As a DAR, I can issue airworthiness certificates for all brands of balloons from Type Certified to Experimental.
I have a Commercial LTA rating and have over 2600 hours in a balloon – both hot air and gas and have flown balloons in many places all over the world. I also have a Single Engine Land airplane rating and a Drone Pilot certificate.
I have served two terms on the board of directors of the Balloon Federation of America.
I help to organize the annual Helen to the Atlantic balloon race, which will celebrate it’s 50th anniversary next year in 2023.
In 2013, I received the Ed Yost Master Pilot award from the BFA in recognition of 40 years as a balloon pilot.
In 2021, my son J.T. became the youngest person to solo pilot a hot air balloon at the age of 8. It was in 24,500 cubic foot ultralight balloon.
2. How and when did you become involved in Balloon Fiesta?
When I started ballooning there were not many balloonists and balloons to fly with. I heard of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta from a balloonist that had attended the World Championships in Albuquerque in 1973. I came to my first Balloon Fiesta in 1974. There, I met many people and enjoyed talking and flying with other balloonists. It was great to fly with many balloons, instead of one or two others. It was great to be around people who were so interested in balloons. I have been coming back every year since.
3. You’ve been involved as a pilot with Balloon Fiesta for 47 years. How has this event grown over the years?
When I first came there were far fewer balloons and many more landing sites. In the early days all of the pilots stayed at the host hotel – Holiday Inn on Menaul. Pilots and crew are spread out more now. The launch fields have changed a few times as the city has grown. Each time the field was moved farther north. All the previous fields were dirt. The grass launch field is a great addition.
4. What is your favorite Balloon Fiesta memory?
There were many events held in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn each year in the early days, including the toga party and Oktoberfest to name a couple. I met so many unique people there. Many of these people have become lifelong friends.
5. What are you most looking forward to at the 50th Balloon Fiesta?
I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones and to celebrate an event that has contributed so much to ballooning and the balloon community.
Categories: Inside the Basket