Take a Hot Air Balloon Flight Over Michigan with one the state's Most Experienced Pilots, Scott Lorenz.
Visit Hot Air Balloon Rides Over Michigan's profile on Pinterest
PureMichiganBalloon.com interviews Michigan Balloonist Scott Lorenz of Westwind Balloon Company in Plymouth, Michigan. Lorenz reveals some of the most incredible flights he?s had and why he loves the sport of hot air ballooning.
What do you have to know to be a competent hot air balloon pilot?
Ballooning is the ultimate seat of the pants flying so a lot of it is just 'feel' once you know what you are doing. As for technical things, you need to know about meteorology, FAA rules regarding airspace around airports, the actual balloon limitations, your own limitations. There?s a saying about pilots and balloon pilots in particular since the go or no go decision is based on the weather conditions. 'There are no old bold pilots.] So as a group we're pretty conservative and safety conscious as you pretty much have to be!
How high can you go?
I was co-pilot on a Guinness World Record flight in a hot air balloon that went to 19,000 feet. However on most flights we?re just over the tops of trees up to a couple thousand feet.
How long is a typical balloon flight?
First of all there's no typical flight. They are all unique and one of a kind because we cover different areas every time we fly. As for flight duration, they last about one hour and we usually fly over the woods and streams of Kensington Park and Island Lake State Park in Brighton and Milford, Michigan. We usually see hundreds of birds, deer and other wildlife as we touch the tree tops. It's a spectacular view you can ONLY experience in a hot air balloon. Often, we?ll talk to people on the ground and interact with kids as they follow us on their bikes. At the end of the flight we'll celebrate with a traditional Champagne toast.
What's the most exciting experience you've had in a hot air balloon?
I've had quite a few including flying over Niagara Falls, The Great Wall of China, Disney World, the Olympics in Calgary, St. Wolfgang, Austria, Japan, Spain, co-piloting one of two balloons for Mike Howard?s Guinness World Record 'balloon walk' flight at 19,000 feet, a 20 hour-361 mile Gas Balloon flight with Gordon Boring.
What?s the scariest experience?
Probably that Guinness World Record flight since there were about 100 things that could have gone wrong but did not. We had several test flights and the guys from the Cameron Balloon factory in Ann Arbor we're really on top of things. And flying over the Great Wall of China in the mountains was pretty wild too.
What's the most unusual thing you've seen from a balloon?
Well every so often we'll be flying along and we'll see a couple having the full human experience if you know what I mean. Last year my passengers spotted a couple doing it on an inner tube raft on the Huron River. That was a good one. I think they posted the photos on FaceBook.
How often do you fly?
We fly 7 days a week all the way through the end of October when the fall colors peaks.
What's the best time of year to fly?
Honestly? Anytime! Personally I do like the fall color season in Michigan. It's pretty tough to beat that.
Have you flown any celebrities?
Yes, just this past year we flew former Miss Michigan Gina Valo, Detroit TV newswomen Lila Lazarus, Film Producer and New York Literary agent Peter Miller. My company also flew several local celebrities including Chris Ilitch and a few other folks who just wanted to do something fun incognito. But hey, everyone's a celebrity in a hot air balloon since people wave to you as you fly over head shouting out "land here!" It's a great feeling to be wanted everywhere you go!
What separates your hot air balloon company from others?
I've been flying the Kensington Park area since 1981. I know the area very well. I have also been competing as a balloonist during that time all over the world in Japan, Austria, China and Canada. It's probably sharpened me up just a bit to be able to handle all types of situations the weather gods throw at us. It has also allowed me to interact with some of the top balloonists in the world which has no doubt had a positive impact on my skill level and capabilities. Plus, the big thing now when it comes to balloon rides is that people need to beware of out of state balloon ride ticket sellers who are just third party vendors. Most of them don't know a balloon from a lawn chair. The balloon community is small so you can call a pilot directly for a flight. There's no need to buy a ride from some stranger you'll never meet.
If someone would like to contact you for a hot air balloon ride how do they reach you?
People can contact me directly at 734-667-2098 or via my website at : http://westwindcos.com/balloon/
All of our hot air balloon rides in Michigan are near or over Kensington Park in Milford and Island Lake State Park in Brighton, Michigan.