Great Texas Balloon Race finale - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Great Texas Balloon Race finale

(Source: KLTV staff) (Source: KLTV staff)
(Source: KLTV staff) (Source: KLTV staff)
(Source: KLTV staff) (Source: KLTV staff)

It was another unpredictable day at an East Texas ballooning event, as the final day of competition again tested the skills of each pilot.

The final day of competitive flight at the 40th Great Texas Balloon Race came down to literally the last scoring attempts by each pilot.

While Saturday the winds were almost nonexistent, Sunday, stiff winds made balloon navigation a whole new challenge.

Brisk winds had pilots bracing for a single shot at targets.

"Friday we missed a flight which really intensified Saturday and Sunday. You had to get here. If you didn't get here you got zero points or very low points. We launched the balloon and I don't think it was 6-7 minutes and we were here at the target," said Longview pilot Guy  Gauthier.

From first balloon to last over the target area, only 39 minutes elapsed. A drag race in ballooning terms.

"Wind was crazy. It was 30 knots at about 3,000 feet. What we expected today was everybody would take off from the same spot, everybody would make the target. Didn't happen that way. Wind started shifting going different directions," says Waco pilot Gary Heavin.

Few were able to score because speed was taking them well out of position.

"Completely missed the second target. Only half the balloons hit each of the 3 targets," Heavin says.

But some got one shot off to score points.

"I scored very well I hope, I'm glad to say," Gauthier says.

In a very tight scoring race, Tyler pilot Bill Baker won the event, state and regional title.

Brandon Heavin, Gary's son, walked away with 5 -thousand dollars for being the only pilot to ring the pole.

"$5,000 for the pole grab, I'm real excited about that. Better than second place," Brandon says.

"Very entertaining. This has been one of the most complete years for all of our events, that we've had," says Frankie Parson a member of the Great Texas balloon race board of directors.

For a complete listing of scores and where every pilot in the Great Texas Balloon Race finished in the event click here.
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