Balloon Name: Breaking Dawn
Pilot Name: Lori Hutchinson
Hometown: Bonner Springs, Kansas
Breaking Dawn is owned by Brian and Lori Hutchinson of Bonner Springs, Kansas. She is a 1997 Balloon Works 7b and is one of the two balloons owned by Brian and Lori.
Lori earned her Private Pilot’s License in September of 2011 and she is a second generation pilot following after her Dad. Brian and Lori, along with their four children and family as crew, try to split time flying locally with some other pilots in the Kansas City area, as well as flying in Topeka with other fellow pilots in the Great Plains Balloon Club. Lori is currently the President of the Great Plains Balloon Club in Topeka, Kansas.
Balloon Name: Hocus Pocus
Pilot Name: Tony Goodnow
Hometown: Topeka, KS
Tony was the 3rd in his immediate family to earn their pilot's certificate, preceded by his mother Connie, and his father Jerry. He grew up around ballooning, crewing with his family as much as possible and taking his first balloon ride at age 2, beginning his flight training at age 14, and making his first solo flight at age 16. Soon after that he let ballooning take a back seat to being a teenager. He and his wife Julie are trying to get their 5 children involved in ballooning before their teenage years set in and they realize it isn't "cool" to get up at 5:00 in the morning to hang out in a dew covered field with Mom and Dad.
Tony and Julie hold administrative positions with the Great Plains Balloon Club and maintain it's website.
Balloon Name: "Pixel Perfect"
Pilot Name: Kiman Kingsley
Hometown: Miller MO
Kiman started his journey in ballooning in 2007. He purchased, took his first ride and received his LTA rating all in that same year. He has always been fascinated with flying. He with the help of his brothers owns and operates a 2000 acre farm as well as a crop dusting operation. His greatest pleasure is to give someone a first time experience of flying whether it be in airplanes or balloons. He's from Miller MO a small farming community and grew up with small town values like honesty, integrity, and compassion. His love for flying opened up a whole new world for him which led him to " GOTTALUVIT " and a community of friendship and sharing.Kiman now has a new balloon called Pixel Perfect.
Balloon Name: RETRO
Pilot Name: Darrin Harrislon
Hometown: Topeka KS
Balloon Name: Keystone Willy
Pilot Name: Wil LaPointe
Hometown: Collinsville OK
Wil LaPointe is the owner of Skyway Balloons, Inc. Wil has served as our balloon meister for a number of years. Wil was in the cellular communications business when he saw his first hot air balloon in the Tulsa area. He immediately realized the potential to draw a crowd, so he purchased a rooftop type to advertise his business. One day, a salesman stopped by who was also a balloon pilot. Although Wil had never been “up” in a balloon, he purchased a red, white and blue passenger balloon, perfect to promote his U.S. Cellular business. The pilot took him for his first ride and he was immediately hooked on the experience.
Wil then trained to become a licensed pilot himself and even became quite successful at competitive racing, eventually being ranked #5 in the entire country. Wil has several balloons but will be flying his new balloon "Horse of a Different Color" this year with the 8-ride basket.
For the last twenty years, Wil has been having the time of his life introducing people to the joy of hot air ballooning. This year will be handling the booking of all hot air balloon rides at $150 per person.
Balloon Name: Freedom Flight
Pilot's Name: Wynn Gustafson (Gus)
Hometown: St. Cloud MN
Freedom Flight, the POW/MIA Hot Air Balloon Team, has flown in more than seven hundred events since its first flight in November 1989. The non-profit now has three balloons that attend 35 to 45 events a year, staffed entirely by volunteers. Now in it’s twenty-second year, Freedom Flight continues to attract attention.
Jim Tuorila's (also known as Big Jim and Tarzan) most memorable hot air balloon flight comes with a small bit of irony attached to one of its more prominent elements, altitude.
He had flown hundreds of times. But when one of his passengers requested that he take his distinctive black balloon with the easily recognizable POW/MIA logo to 5,000 feet, Tuorila acquiesced with little enthusiasm. All of Dr. Turolia's passengers were wives of VN pilots who were missing in action. Turoila has flown the balloons in five countries and 40 states.
"I don't like to fly high," he said, laughing. "I'm afraid of heights. I can't lean over the side of a tall building and feel comfortable. I probably wouldn't be flying this balloon if it weren't for the issue." But the POW/MIA issue and the balloon are inseparable.
Everywhere we go, the reception has been positive and overwhelming, and that keeps us flying." he said. "She wanted to see what the world looked like when he ejected. It touched me so deeply that I'll never forget that flight with those women."
Freedom Flight, the POW/MIA Hot Air Balloon Team, has flown in more than seven hundred events since its first flight in November 1989. The non-profit now has three balloons that attend 35 to 45 events a year, staffed entirely by volunteers. Now in it’s twenty-second year, Freedom Flight continues to attract attention. "The reception we've gotten over the years make the hair on the back of my neck stand up," Tuorila said. "It's been incredible. I've had what I assume to be a Vietnam veteran come up, put $100 in my pocket and say, 'Keep it up,' then walk away. I've had family members of the missing come up to me with tears in their eyes. I've had ex-POWs come up and thank us. Everywhere we go, the reception has been positive and overwhelming, and that keeps us flying."
Balloon Name: Majesty on High
Pilot Name: Derek Masingale
Hometown: Tulsa OK
Balloon Name: FireCat
Pilot Name: Paul Costello
Hometown: Topeka KS
Paul first became interested in ballooning after reading about it in a magazine article in the early 1970's. Not long after that he had an opportunity to learn to fly, taking lessons from local instructor Chuck Tantillo.
Paul bought his first balloon, The Green Apple, in the mid '70's in partnership with Ruth Scholl and Lee Benson and has participated in every Huff 'n Puff since the rally was organized. He later bought his own balloon, Nautilus, and was a regular sight in the skies around Topeka. In the early '80's he was provided an opportunity to fly the then corporate owned Billy Bob balloon to advertise the Showbiz Pizza Place restaurants as they opened across the country. He and his crew traveled to the east coast for a promotional tour and grew to appreciate the wide open spaces of Kansas where you could actually see something besides trees as you drive down the local roads.
Connie Goodnow is one of several students that Paul taught to fly over the years, and in addition to being founding members of the GPBC, they both have their fixed wing licenses and enjoy flying their airplane when the weather isn't cooperating for balloon flights.
Following the closing of the local Showbiz franchise Billy Bob found a permanent home in their garage, right next to Spirit of Topeka which he had purchased in 1985. Time had passed, and with Spirit no longer flying, in an effort to save space in the garage Billy Bob's basket was sold and it's envelope was retrofitted to fly over Spirit's basket making the pairing an Experimental Type Certified balloon system. In 2012, Paul and Connie purchased The Purple Balloon with the intention of keeping it in the Topeka skies.
Balloon Name: Air Hawk
Pilot Name: Steve Libel
Hometown: Marco Island FL
Balloon Name: Dot
Pilot Name: James Bowman
Hometown: Oklahoma City OK
Balloon Name: Green Hornet
Pilot Name: Royce Miller
Hometown: Guymon OK
Balloon Name: ZROZRO7
Pilot Name: Bruce Skach
Hometown: Wichita KS