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 1982 Robert Burch Communications My interest in ballooning was sparked by the sight of two dozen hot air balloons flying over the Opening Ceremonies of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, NY. One of the pilots invited me to visit Albuquerque - his home and the site of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Sid Cutter was that pilot - the founder of the Fiesta. When he invited me to go aloft, he warned me, "The first flight is free; the second one costs $25,000!" I'll never forget that flight. I was smitten, and although I did fly with other pilots, I received my Student License and began training. Sid was right; my first balloon cost $32,000.

The Albuquerque Fiesta is the largest and one of the oldest balloon events in the world. The 29th '2000 Millennium' edition featured over 1000 balloons from all parts of the worlds. I have participated on 16 occasions as both a pilot and member of the media. Attendance now tops one million for this annual October classic, the most photographed event in North America.  1992 Robert Burch Communications
 1989 Robert Burch Communications Over the years the organizers have added a number of events that have become very popular with the public. The 'Special Shapes Rodeo' delights children and adults alike, featuring balloons in all shapes and sizes, from flying hamburgers and hot dogs to pigs, penguins and polar bears.

Spectators are spellbound as these limp piles of fabric are inflated and slowly come to life. Who says cows can't fly!

 1991 Robert Burch Communications Indeed, cows do fly! - And that's not all! I received a call from a visiting pilot requesting my help in arranging a crew for an unusual balloon. A flying condom made its international debut in Montreal at an AIDS conference. It garnered  much attention from the media. Special shape balloons have become  popular symbols for corporate advertising  1990 Robert Burch Communications
 1987 Robert Burch Communications
My first balloon was a 90,000 cubic ft. Thunder & Colt built in England. From 1986 to 1991, I flew the Minolta corporate balloon, flying 6 months each year at balloon events throughout the United States, across Canada and in Australia. Over the course of the program an estimated 22 million people saw the balloon at various events. I carried over 1000 passengers on over 400 flights.
I have organized 4 international balloon events:
1983 * America's Cup Yacht Race Balloon Rally in Newport, RI
1984 * St-Jean-sur-Richelieu Balloon Festival and the CAN-AM 
Challenge Cup near Montreal.
1985 * "Destination Canada" International Balloon Competition in 
Ottawa, Canada.
1986 * Inter-Provincial Balloon Race between pilots from Quebec &
Ontario - Point Calumet, QC.

Today I only fly for recreation and at a few festivals.
When traveling, I always try to find local pilots in the area and try to arrange a flight with them.
The "Festival des Montgolfieres" at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, hosted the 1991 World Championship with 40 countries participating. Airborne every August for 9 days, It remains the premier event in the Montreal area and is home to more than 40 regional balloon pilots.

Elsewhere in Quebec, just across the river from Ottawa, the Gatineau Balloon Festival held on the Labor Day weekend, hosts up to 200 balloons, Canada's largest balloon festival.

 1991 Robert Burch Communications
 1997 Robert Burch Communications
This is the balloon I currently fly. It's called "Un Sourire du Ciel" which in English means "A Smile in the Sky". I no longer fly a corporate balloon, but when I did, it allowed me to travel to places that eluded me in the course of doing assignments. I am indebted to all the volunteers who have acted as crew members in the many towns and cities where I flew. They are the unsung heros who help make ballooning a great fraternity.
This is the Richelieu Valley, 20 miles south of Montreal. It's easy to see why it's my favorite place to fly. Fed by the waters of Lake Champlain, the serene Richelieu River meanders north to the mighty Saint Lawrence, slicing a path through Quebec farmland and small towns, and framed by Mount Saint Hilaire and Mount Saint Bruno. Some of the friendliest farmers in the world welcome us at our landings. They even bring their own glass!  1994 Robert Burch Communications
 1996 Robert Burch Communications
Landings are where you find them because balloons are at the mercy of the wind. When the remaining fuel is at 25%, it's time to land. Most landowners are friendly and allow balloons to land on their property.
They are rewarded for their good will with a glass of champagne, a tradition dating back to the 18th century. And for this reason, ballooning has come to be known as the 'Champagne Sport'.


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