Hot air balloon pilots take flight in East Texas - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Hot air balloon pilots take flight in East Texas

Hot air balloon pilots from all over the country are in East Texas, for a shot at a national championship. Hot air balloon pilots from all over the country are in East Texas, for a shot at a national championship.
LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) -

Hot air balloon pilots from all over the country are in East Texas, for a shot at a national championship.

They're here to get in a few practice runs before the Great Texas balloon race, and to score points towards a possible trip to the world championships. In Longview with a break-out meeting and map study, 11 pilots took flight , trying to sharpen their skills for the upcoming Great Texas balloon race.

"They'll be more and more coming in each weekend coming into town to practice to get a feel for it. and should the winds be similar, we've got an advantage over a guy that didn't show up," says event co-founder Dr. Bill Bussey.

"With calm winds in the morning and lots of steerage, so the guys who can come in, do come in and get a some quality practice," says pilot Guy Gauthier.

But this wasn't just practice. Valuable points are scored.

"All the top competitors come here. We're dropping markers and using GPS. I'm putting together some BFA sanctioned events, and these will qualify them for next years national championship," Gauthier says.

"We've got some folks from the world team representing the united states," says Bussey.

No flaps or rotors, just experience and gauging the wind.

"The wind is probably going to be totally different when the nationals come. This is just an exercise so we can get the feel of the balloons," says pilot Bill Adler.

Capturing attention as they flew over Longview, the little race that originally started in the Longview mall parking lot has become the site of the U.S. national championships.

"I was nervous I never thought the thing would work at all. The biggest excitement came from a police officer when he said there's cars parked all up and down McCann road and they're complaining that the parking lots full. I said yes! That’s when I knew we were going to make it," Bussey says.

The opening ceremony for the Great Texas balloon race will begin Monday July 28th at the East Texas regional airport. You can catch the pilots practicing over Longview for the next three weekends.

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