TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - One of the new competition categories in this year’s Great Texas Balloon Race is called the “young guns." It includes first-time pilots that represent the next generation of hot air ballooning.
Among the field of young gun pilots preparing to take part in the 42nd edition, is 21-year-old Cameron Wall, a student at Longview’s LeTourneau University.
“Right now I’m in early childhood education and special-ed. I love the community and everything about Longview and wanted to find a place to stay,” he said.
Originally from New Mexico, Wall has been flying for some time and even has international experience.
“Been flying for five to six years now and actually had the chance to go over to Poland for the FAI junior hot air balloon championships, so I made the team for the United States,” Cameron said.
The young guns will fly as an independent group.
“They won’t compete with the main GTBR pilots until Sunday, so they have their own category of competition and awards,” said race chairman Rhonda Bullard.
“I’m looking at this event not only to compete really well here, but also as a learning tool for the next couple of events,” Wall said.
For Cameron, it's the chance to match up against men who are legends in the race.
“The reason why I love ballooning is the challenge that it brings along. The Donners, the Petrahns, the Busseys, Guy Gauthier, people that have all done really well here. I’d like to see my name up there one day,” Cameron said.
He’d also like to spark interest in ballooning for a new generation.
“I’d really like to be a huge advocate for the next generation of pilots,” he said.
Wall had a practice run today and said he’s ready for the real thing.
He’s qualified to compete in the national championships in Nebraska next month.
Cameron is a junior at LeTourneau University.