Pilots & Balloons

2016 Pilots & Balloons

Darren Kling – Art Aloft & Remax

From a very young age I’ve always had a high interest in aviation. I took my first ride in a balloon in 1989 and was introduced to a form of flight far different from anything I had experienced before. In 1993 I received my commercial pilots license and started BigSky Balloon Co. providing balloon rides and corporate advertising in NW Montana.In 2000 I relocated my business to Portland. OR and have been operating a corporate balloon contract in the Pacific Northwest region. For the past year I’ve been working on establishing a balloon ride business once again, and am very excited to now offer scenic balloon flights from Central Oregon in my hand painted Art Aloft balloon. Balloons have the unique ability to capture peoples imagination and transport them into an environment they’ve never experienced before. Sharing that experience with people for the first time is what continues to make it a fresh and exciting job for me.



Brann Smith balloon photo

 Brann Smith – Cloud Dancer

My first experience with hot air ballooning was 15 years ago. It then became my passion as I soon realized that it is such an amazing and unique sport. In 1999, I completed my commercial pilot training and began flying in Oregon with my own company. I believe hot air ballooning is not just about flying but the people you encounter and the wonderful experience and memories we create together.During career as a Pilot, I have flown in six states; Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and now California. Currently in Chico, California, I plan to again fly as a business and give back to the community where I grew up. I hope to share the joy and serenity of floating through the air with as many people as I can, hoping to inspire the feeling of freedom and adventure to the hearts of others that it brings to me.



Robert Raper – Midlife Crisis

I received my commercial certificate in 1996.  Bought my first balloon in 1995 while learning to fly.  Currently have 4 Balloons and manage my business – High Plains Drifter Hot Air Balloons, LLC. Currently I am moving from Miles City, Montana and returning to North Bend, Oregon.  I usually attend 7-10 events annually including Reno, Nevada and Albuquerque, New Mexico. I fly throughout the western 11 states.



Greg Miller – I’ll Fly Away 2

Greg started crewing in 1990, and ended up buying the balloon he was crewing for in 1995.  Greg received his private license in 1996 and his commercial license in 1997.

In 1999, Greg was honored by his fellow Aeronaut’s, by being voted as Willamette Aerostat Society, Aeronaut of the year for all the work he put in forming the new balloon club. The Willamette Aerostat Society Hot Air Balloon club continues to flourish and grow, having added many new members over the years.

In 2000, Greg was honored to be asked to be one of the 60 balloons that participated in the Millennium count down held in Boise Idaho, to ring in the new Millennium.

Greg and his wife Janet recently relocated their residence and home port for I’LL FLY AWAY BALLOON ADVENTURES to Prineville Oregon located in beautiful Central Oregon, where he will be offering Scenic Balloon Flights through out Central Oregon, because the sun shines 300 plus days a year  allowing for year round flying.

Greg and his balloon I’LL FLY AWAY 2, a beautiful balloon with the bottom half all the colors of the NBC Peacock, and the top half is all Black, have made the trip to Balloons over Bend  several times and look forward to this years event.  Come out to the field and say hello to Greg, and be part of the experience.  Having relocated to Central Oregon Greg is building an active crew list.  If you are interested in becoming balloon crew you can get more information from our website www.illflyaway.net or call Greg at 503 510-7835



Koh Murai – Firenze

I am predominantly a sport flyer but also provide some instruction.  I also enjoy aerostat construction with my first effort an AX-5.  One of my other joys in LTA aviation is working on, executing, and helping others with long distance, long duration, and high altitude flights.  It has been my pleasure to be the launch master for 5 world record flights.  Yet time spent aloft is still the biggest thrill after all these years.  The people you meet and become involved with are also a great reward and asset for participating in this sport.

From 1991-1998, I was involved as launch crew, launch master, and consultant for several trans-global balloon attempts.  These included Earthwinds Hilton, Virgin Global Challenge, ICO Global Challenge, and Global Hilton.  From 2000 – 2005, I was involved with scientific balloon and systems design and flight operations for a small private firm supporting various government and university agencies.  This work included designs and flights in earth atmosphere, near space, and planetary exploration.  Since mid-2007 to present, I have also been the engineering consultant and engineer of record for Firefly Balloons.