Your pilot Jason Gaines fell in love with ballooning at about the age of 3.
He grew up in Manchester Missouri and remembers seeing the balloons fly over his house from time to time. He would first hear the noise of the burners then would run outside and watch them float gently overhead. He would make his mom jump in the car and chase the balloons down upon landing. He would run-up to the balloon, talk to the pilots and help the crew with packing up the balloon. This was a 4-5 times a week occurrence during the summer. He was fascinated by the colorful giants. At the age of 5, Jason began attending The Great Forest Park Balloon Race every September with his family as a spectator and has not missed a year since although now he is a pilot in the race instead of a spectator.
For his birthday in 1985, his dad bought him a balloon ride. Jason, dad, and younger brother took their first-ever balloon flight. Jason recalls his experience like it was yesterday, "At first I was terrified because I didn't
like heights, I hated them and still do. I remember telling my mom to tell my dad to tell the pilot not to go very high. We got to the launch field somewhere over in Illinois and I see the crew assembling the balloon and the pilot start to inflate it. It's happening I thought, I was excited but scared. The balloon fills with air and the pilot had the passengers climb into the basket. We begin our ascent and within a few minutes, I was hooked and decided I wanted to be a balloon pilot. After my dad told our pilot that his son loved ballooning and might want to be a pilot, the pilot had me work the burners and explained all about the balloon system to me.
We landed in a grassy field and that ended our flight but began my career
Shortly after that flight, Jason's dad met a guy that operated a balloon ride company and told him that his son loved the balloons and asked if he would have any use for a 12-year-old helping out. So this began my career as a balloonist. I crewed every flight I could, after school and every weekend. I never once got paid any money for my services; I won't call it work because that would be silly. Over the next decade, I crewed for nearly 1000 flights, trading my time for balloon rides and eventually flight instruction. I began my flight training in 1997, did my first solo flight on July 15, 2001.
On September 3 of 2001, I passed and obtained my private pilot's license.
On September 22, I took my first passenger on a ride, my dad, 16 years after my first ride, I got to return the favor. In 2003 Jason received his commercial pilot certificate and has logged over 1000 hours in hot air balloons. He flies all over the country and Mexico competing in balloon competitions and festivals.
I remember my first flight and would love to be apart of yours.